With Seven’s 2024 Upfront scheduled to take over SXSW Sydney on Wednesday, the network has given a sneak peek into what audiences will be able to expect from BVOD platform 7Plus in the months ahead.
Mediaweek spoke with Seven’s chief digital officer, Gereurd Roberts, about what changes are coming and what they mean for advertisers and viewers.
The jewel in the crown of the digital announcements is the introduction of streaming rights for the AFL and cricket. The bottom line, said Roberts, is that “it is going to be the biggest game changer in the history of streaming in Australia.”
“Cricket and AFL are the biggest summer and winter sports in the country, and they’ve never ever been offered to stream for free to Australians before. Opening those two sports up to the scale of Australia, and the scale of 7Plus is going to be enormous.
“We’ve forecast what we think the impact will be, and we think it’s going to be more than 4 billion minutes a year. To put that into context, that’s the equivalent of a Tokyo Olympics and Women’s World Cup combined every single year, over the next seven years.”
With such a major boost in forecasted streaming hours on the horizon, Roberts said that the move would benefit both clients and consumers.
“For our clients, what that means is that they can buy against consistent scale audiences every single week of the year, not just during a period of the year.
“For consumers, it means that for the first time, they’re going to be able to stream these sports for free. As we see the migration of audiences across screens, that’s incredibly important. These sports have been behind a paywall previously, and the data and research show that with economic pressures, almost half of Australians are looking at unsubscribing from an SVOD service.”
The introduction of AFL and cricket won’t be the only changes that people notice as they kick back to watch their favourite shows on 7Plus. New features coming to 7plus in 2024 include start over, live pause and rewind, skip credits, picture-in-picture, and more personalisation features.
“Those features will start rolling out this quarter, with the plan being to ensure that they’re live before we do get the cricket and AFL rights live on the platform,’ said Roberts. “They are only going to increase engagement from a consumer perspective.
“We don’t benchmark ourselves against local competitors, we benchmark ourselves against the very best streaming platforms on the planet. We already think that we measure up really well, but this is about putting us on par with the very best global SVODs.”
12 months of NBCUniversal
If you cast your mind back to Seven’s Upfront last year, one of the major announcements was that Seven had joined forces with NBCUniversal International Networks & Direct-to-Consumer to create a new free-to-air channel for reality and true crime: 7Bravo.
After that channel officially launched on January 15, Roberts said that the partnership had performed better than even Seven expected.
“We think about the performance of the onboarding of NBC in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it was a targeted content acquisition, and one that we really wanted to use to drive premium female audiences into the platform. Sport will generally bring in premium male audiences, and the NBCU content is about generating valuable female audiences, so between the two, we’ve got scale and premium audiences that advertisers want to buy against.
“In terms of engagement on the NBCU content, we’ve seen consumption increase more than 60% quarter on quarter since launch in January. In a really short space of time – we’re only at the start of October – NBCU content represents 10% of total platform minutes, well ahead of where we expect it to be.”
Speeding up with more FAST Channels
Another area Seven prides itself in leading the market on is FAST channels. In America, FAST channels – standing for Free Ad-supported Streaming Television – are expected to generate more advertising revenue than cable, broadcast, or subscription streaming services by 2025. It’s a pattern that may well repeat itself down under.
Last month, Seven reported that more than 630 million minutes of Seven’s FAST programming were watched on 7plus in the 12 months to 31 August this year, up from 280 million minutes in the previous corresponding period and representing nearly 10% of all live content viewed on 7plus.
“FAST has become the third pillar in our content strategy when it comes to 7Plus, alongside Live and On Demand,” said Roberts. “They are really servicing different needs for different customers – it gives us the ability to be able to deliver to the people who are looking for some surprise and delight, as we call it.
“Our approach to FAST is determined by the technology that we use to be able to surface those channels. We use AWS’ channel assembly technology, which allows us to be able to raise and publish a channel of content within the space of hours. It gives us the ability to be able to act really quickly against trends.
“With the audience insights that we generate and the understanding that we have around what it is that people want to watch, it’s really easy for us to be able to go out and acquire or package the content to be able to service them through FAST.”
Top Image: Gereurd Roberts