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News Plus 19 Apr 2021 - 3 min read

'The viewership of 17 AFL finals in row': Despite Covid surge, Seven guarantees audiences, backs Olympics to deliver biggest digital event to date

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Seven's Kurt Burnette: "A lot of the technology we’ve built for this event is going to factor heavily into how we serve content and advertising across the platform for years to come."

Three months ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Seven remains bullish that the games will go ahead and deliver huge wins for the network and its advertisers. Network Sales Director Natalie Harvey told Mi3 that daily reach would exceed 5m viewers across a day on average. Seven is also backing the games to get its first party data plans back on track - and bring a new set of audiences and advertisers to the network. But it also has a plan B.

What you need to know:

  • Seven predicts The Games will deliver 5.5m viewers in average daily reach for 17 days straight.
  • The network expects the event to deliver close to 1.8m new signed-in users for its BVOD platform 7Plus - but has walked back its 8m user ID target to the end of the games rather than hitting that milestone by the opening ceremony.
  • Sales boss Natalie Harvey told Mi3 that 70% of ad inventory has been sold.
  • The network has guaranteed audiences for brands - and will bring forward its slate if a fourth Covid wave in Japan forces postponement for a second time.

Game on?

Seven hopes to set new records this year, as it readies for the start of the delayed Tokyo Olympics. The network is already branding The Games the "biggest digital event in Australia ever".

Should the event take place in July, that prophecy may well come true. If The Games are again postponed, with Japan facing a fourth Covid wave and municipalities abandoning plans to host training camps for athletes, Seven says it has a plan.

When the event does take place, Sales Director Natalie said the network expects to notch an average daily reach of 5.5m viewers across the 17-day schedule, predicting peak audiences will nudge close to 200% and off-peak as much as 300% in key demographics.

"It's going to be a juggernaut for the network and lays the foundations for a lot of the improvements and advancements we plan to make with our linear and digital broadcast capabilities," Harvey told Mi3.

"What we'll have is a daily audience equivalent to 17 AFL Grand Finals in a row, while events such as skate and surf will reach more 16-24 year olds than YouTube does in a month."

All advertisers, no matter the size of the investment, have been given audience guarantees.

The network, which recently added a mandatory sign-in policy for its broadcast video on demand platform (BVOD) 7Plus, is also expecting the Olympics to add a further 1.8m TV viewers to its database (currently it has 6.25m). If it can do so, it would take Seven's total number of signed-in users to 8m, hitting the target tabled by Chief Revenue Officer Kurt Burnette last October, albeit after the games, rather than before.

While that adjusted target may appear challenging, even without Covid uncertainty over The Games, Harvey said Seven's progress on first party data is already paying dividend.

"Some of the conversations that we've had with agencies revealed that the Olympics hadn’t been on the radar for non-TV spending clients," Harvey said.

"But when we’ve discussed the figures around our digital audiences on 7Plus, they’ve sat up and registered that while it is a TV event it’s also the biggest digital event of the year. That means those digital-first clients need to be involved in some way, even if it’s not using the linear broadcast."

Delivery plan

Seven plans to deliver its coverage across 43 channels and two simulcasts, including 36 channels curated by Seven, six pre-created channels direct from Tokyo and one existing Olympic channel.

The network claims its strategy should deliver five times more streaming minutes than the 2021 Australian Open.

Seven will also be using The Games to build a richer user profile for each user by allowing them to create watchlists and view events in their preferred language. That allows Seven to better curate content and better target ads.

"We call it project Titanium, it’s about keeping audiences on the platform after The Games and engaging with not just the Paralympics but our entire suite of content," Burnette told Mi3.

"A lot of the technology we’ve built for this event is going to factor heavily into how we serve content and advertising across the platform for years to come."

Re-igniting the flame

Seven has been working feverishly to generate more sponsors after three big brands pulled out last year, which Harvey said was tied directly to Covid impacts.

While so far Seven has only found a single replacement major partner, it has managed to sell 70% of the total inventory for the  event, said Burnette.

"The last two months have seen the pipeline grow significantly as confidence in the games going ahead has become clearer," he suggested. 

But he added that Seven does have a plan B should the Games be postponed a second time.

"We have had conversations around contingency plans – as there is a large amount of advertiser budget sitting there that in some cases can make up half a brand’s comms planned spend for the year," he said.

"What we’ve tried to do is replicate the benefits of the Olympics, but on a smaller scale using content we already have in the can."

That means shows like The Voice and Farmer Wants a Wife will be moved forward and the network will work out a way to provide similar reach percentages with smaller audiences.

Seven also hopes to deliver a better viewer experience by having 38% less commercial content, shorter breaks and venues free of branding.

But Burnette said that there are other opportunities for advertisers.

"This is the first time we will be able to integrate our partners into the broadcast through picture-in-picture overlays, pull-throughs and branding on our broadcast sets. There are more integration opportunities that we have in the works that we can discuss closer to the date," Burnette said.

The claims for The Games

Below is a list of the claims made by Seven in the lead up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games:

  • The games will have an average daily reach of over 5.5m viewers for 17 days straight.
  • For younger demos, skate and surf will reach more 16-24 year olds than YouTube does in a month.
  • 2.8m or over 30% of the audience reached will not have been reached before by Seven.
  • By the completion of the games, Seven expects to have 8m logged-in users.
  • 60% of the signed in audience will be viewing on CTV.
  • There will be 38% less commercial content, shorter breaks and venues free of branding.
  • There will be five times more streaming minutes than this year's Australian Open.
  • Seven predicts it will be the largest digital streaming event in Australian history.


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