SXSW Tour: Kurt Burnette’s key takeaways


“I tried to prepare myself for it, but the actual size and scale of it was quite incredible”

South by South West in Austin Texas is one of the biggest events on the global media calendar, and there is even more interest down under in Australia this year due to the upcoming SXSW Sydney. 

Due to this, the Mediaweek SXSW tour took several media executives from across the country to the week long event and has now caught up with several members of the tour on what their key takeaways were.

Today is Kurt Burnette, Seven West Media‘s Chief Revenue Officer, who attended along with two key members of his sales team, Katie Finney and Georgie Nichols


Mediaweek’s SXSW tour group including Seven’s Kurt Burnette and Mediaweek’s Sparrow and Trent Thomas

See Also: From AI to Deep Fakes: Amy Webb talks to Mediaweek about tech changes for media industry

While Burnette and his team took many key learnings from SXSW, they attended with an additional focus, considering that Seven is a key sponsor of SXSW and is hosting its 2024 Upfront at this year’s event.

Of going on the Mediaweek Tour, Burnette said that it’s one thing to hear about SXSW, but another thing entirely to be there in person.

I tried to prepare myself for it, but the actual size and scale of it was quite incredible. It’s been going on for 31 years, it’s the preeminent thought leadership conference in the world, and it lived up to what was on the tin because it certainly got you thinking about the future if you weren’t already – which we clearly are, that’s why we’re there.

“It certainly validated the path that we’ve taken in some areas, and it certainly encouraged us to think even more about some areas that perhaps we hadn’t been thinking so much about. We were there because we’re sponsoring South by Southwest Sydney in October, we’ve got what we believe is a clear lens on the future of premium video in this country, and we’ve got a plan – there were some things in there that really helped validate that.”

With Seven sponsoring SXSW Sydney, the trip provided the team with an opportunity to take inspiration from the Texas conference ahead of its debut down under.

When it came to what stood out most in terms of what Seven could learn, Burnette points to the branding of the festival and what it brings to its host city. 

“I thought perhaps that South by Southwest would take over the city like some of the other big major sporting events do, and that everywhere you look, you’d see South by Southwest. What I found interesting about it is they don’t label the city with their brand, they get in under the heart of the city – wherever you go there is a conference or a talk for South by Southwest, but what you don’t see is brand slapping of South by Southwest on every single building.”


When the conference takes a trip to the southern hemisphere, the lesson for Burnette is to focus on the feel, culture, and tone that SXSW Sydney brings to the city.

“What we took away from that was that it’s not necessarily what you do outside and as a visual across what will be Darling Harbour precinct, it’s actually what you do inside the precinct, inside the events, inside the talks and the chats. That’s where you’re most valuable and most present. 

“How do we work with partners to enable each other to be seen and heard across the various parts of the South by Southwest precinct rather than out-shouting somebody with the biggest logo?”

Back in Texas, there was one major SXSW installation that stood out to Burnette.

The standout for me, as it relates to media at least, was Prime Texas. I thought that was a really, really smart activation that took the theme of Texas inside of a hotel. It wasn’t flash, but every room had a piece of content that was related to Prime – like The Boys or Daisy Jones and the Six.

“The content that they had in there was clearly consumer-focused, but also clearly youth-focused. They had a DJ, the content was young, it was vibrant, they had alcohol there, and they had tacos and food. They clearly wanted to get a younger crew and immerse their content with the consumer. I thought that was a really good installation using the infrastructure of the city to help tell that story in a really engaging way.”


SXSW Prime Texas

See Also: SXSW Day 1 and 2: Trent Thomas visits Prime, Paramount & Audible

Having travelled over 13,000kms as part of the Mediaweek SXSW Tour, Burnette says that the trip across the world for the conference was well and truly worth it. 

“You get out what you put in, and we put in a lot of time and effort, as the whole tour group did, to get into the learning of it and the culture of it. 

“Where the real value will come – and I do believe it to be incredibly valuable – will be where we action what we’ve seen and heard through the business and through our strategy and help accelerate that forward. 

“We went in not really knowing exactly how to navigate the whole path to get there and around there. The Mediaweek team and the trip were excellent, we were able to navigate a clear path through what can be quite a daunting position

“In terms of the crew, the insights, and the tour leadership, it was an exceptional tour and well worth everything that we bought into.”

Looking ahead to October’s SXSW Sydney conference, Burnette says that the Australian iteration will be a highlight of the 2023 calendar.

“I’m expecting that people will be incredibly surprised about how the event will bring Sydney and the business of Australia together. I think people are going to be surprised about how much it will become the glue of business, not just for now but for the foreseeable future

“It is an enormous event, I think people will be inspired, and they’ll be surprised. It’s going to take time to scale up, but the media world across this country will embrace it, and it’ll be an amazing experience.”

To Top