Seven Upfront: Angus Ross and Kurt Burnette on schedule shake-up

Seven Upfront

• Brand support: “We now have $85m+ in forward investments for 2021”

The biggest surprise from the Seven Upfront was the reveal at the end of the Upfront event from director of network programming Angus Ross that Seven had secured a deal with Fremantle to broadcast Australian Idol.

Both Ross and Seven chief revenue officer and director of the Olympics Kurt Burnette see big upsides from Seven schedule for audiences and advertisers.

The return of the singing show from hibernation won’t be happening in 2021 though, Seven has commissioned the series for 2022.

Angus Ross

Is there room for The Voice, Australia’s Got Talent and Australian Idol on the one channel?

“It gives us control over three of the most powerful formats in the world,” Ross told Mediaweek. “I like having an armoury of formats like that to roll out when we want to.”

Ross said there were no concerns about the amount of talent available in Australia to provide performers for all three formats. “Since we have called for performers for The Voice, ITV has been inundated with the casting and some of the talent has been incredible. We are very confident in all those formats and we will roll them out as we see fit.”

An upside of having all these popular formats is that it shuts out Nine and 10 from commissioning one of the formats. “Large scale entertainment and variety formats are very important to the schedule. You just can’t be running scripted reality shows all year long, you have to have variety and we now control the here biggest formats in that space.”

Ross pulled the trigger quickly on recommissioning Screentime’s SAS Australia, announcing its return at the Upfront just after the first two episodes screened. “The numbers for that second episode 16-39 and 25-54 went higher, so it was a bit of a no-brainer. It falls into our strategy of commissioning proven, power formats. It is an established, proven format from Channel 4 in the UK. Even though they are a very different network to us, we thought it had potential. It had a troubled birth because of Covid. We started filming in New Zealand and we had to abandon that. Thanks to the work of Screentime and our executives we have still managed to get it on air. It is delivering for us in spades.

SAS Australia is also on track to become our biggest show ever on 7plus after 150,000 extra viewers watched the Monday night episode.” That figure should be bigger now in the few days since we spoke with Ross.

Seven is anticipating less disruption to its 2021 schedule as shows originally slotted for 2020 will finally be ready. “By mid-December we will have banked all of our first-half programming up until the Tokyo Olympics. We have finished Holey Moley and we are shooting Farmer Wants a Wife now and by December we will have also finished Big Brother and Ultimate Tag.

We don’t want a repeat of what happened this year when we lost three formats that were supposed to go to air. In 2021 we will have all of the rounds in the chamber, so look out!

Advertising already rolling in for 2021

Kurt Burnette

Seven is not only hoping its viewers will be patient when it comes to finally watching the formats that have been promised for some time. The advertisers too have been waiting for their sponsorships to be activated onscreen.

“All of the Tokyo Olympics brands have been waiting and the vast majority are still committed,” Kurt Burnette told Mediaweek. “We now have over $85m in forward investments for 2021 before we even factor in the AFL market. That is money committed to the Olympics and the major franchises. We have already had some re-commit to SAS Australia too for 2021.”

Burnette said being part of the delayed Olympics is a strong statement from a brand. “If you are going to build a brand with a message to connect to Australians coming out of the most horrendous year on record – a event about patriotism and bring the world together – is there a finer moment to be a part of? That is the sort of discussions we are having with brands who are excited to be a part of it.”

Burnette said the 2021 Seven schedule is perhaps its best since the network launched the Athens Olympics of 2004. “Back then we were launching programs like Dancing with the Stars and had programs like Desperate Housewives and Lost. I’m not suggesting we will do the sorts of numbers those shows had, but we are now offering one of the biggest shake-ups in many years.

“What that means is growth opportunities for brands.”

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