Seven West Media CEO James Warburton and director of network programming Angus Ross on 2020 programming challenges
JW: When I came into the organisation and sat in front of the board for the first time, it was clear to me that Sunday to Thursday was a problem.
We have total domination with sport at the back end of the week.
Our problems were too much focus on number one and total people and not enough focus on the demographics.
Everything we have done so far [since I arrived] has been geared around investing more in content.
Hopefully there has been a bit of a surprise about how much we have got to attack the 7.30pm slot.
It is not going to take much for us to be absolutely back in leadership of all the key demographics.
We don’t program for an hour a day like some. We smash it out across the schedule from sunup to sundown with a lot of really, really powerful content.
Telling advertisers the problem and the plan
JW: I couldn’t have been any more frank and open about our recent performance. The market appreciates that, but you also have to tell them what you are going to do about it – explain the problem, but also detail how you are going to fix it.
More AFL on Thursday nights?
JW: We would love as much AFL as we could get on Thursday nights. We will support the AFL in whatever they want to do. If there is talk about a twilight Grand Final we will support them. It is not up to us to lead discussions on that.
Why did you acquire the rights to Big Brother?
AR: It is still one of the most iconic and well known franchises in the world. The plans that Endemol Shine have for it got us very excited. They presented an interesting take on in their plans to relaunch it in this market.
They have been blown away by the number of responses they have already had for the number of people who want to take part.
Whenever the brand gets mentioned it always creates a lot of chatter.
[When asked about Seven showing clips of a set being built in Sydney Harbour, Ross replied:]
That just might have been stock footage. I can’t answer anything on that.
We have only just signed the deal and we don’t yet know where it will be based.
Where did the idea for Plate of Origin come from?
AR: It’s a Seven Studios idea. It was something that developed through discussions about owning the cooking space. We now have all the biggest names in food in the one place and we will have an Olympic launch pad for the new series. It will be a perfect time to launch a new show and there clearly seems to be a demand for it. The market sustains two cooking formats already and there is a big, big advertiser demand for more of that content.
The schedule James Warburton outlined seems to fill your 7.30pm slots across the full year?
AR: James came in with a very clear brief. He wanted year-round 7.30pm strip programming targeting 25-54. No more weeks of patchwork quilt programming due to cost pressures with gaps in the format.
He identified there was more investment needed in the 7.30pm entertainment schedule. We have responded to that brief.
What is your current thinking about the number of nights a format can sustain each week?
AR: Some of these shows will be part of a two pronged stripped attack each week at certain points of the year. Some of the shows will have more episodes than others. There will be some weeks when we run two different franchises.
We will be attacking five nights a week – Sunday to Thursday. Sports and Better Homes and Gardens takes care of the rest.
People forget that in 2018, Seven won everything – all people and every single demographic [metro network].
We have a really good base of news and sport. It is much harder to turn around a declining news brand or a declining sport than it is to fix 7.30pm. We have a number of key 7.30pm brand that do work, we just need to fix the other parts of the year.
Top Photo: James Warburton with Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell