Seven Network is the leading broadcaster by audience share in Australia. The channel has had success with its combination of hot US acquisitions – from its output deals with NBC Universal International Television Distribution and Disney ABC ESPN Television – and locally produced fare.
It has just rolled out its first digital channel 7TWO, which launched with series including Ugly Betty, 24, The Jay Leno Show, Prime Suspect, Lost, Tin Man, Rome and Shark. Tim Worner, director of programming and production at Seven, talks to TBIvision about the channel and the company’s strategy.
Why did you decide to launch 7TWO?
Each of the free-to-air networks has [agreed] to drive the take up of digital in Australia and at Seven we decided to go for a broad, compelling offering. We wanted a brand with utility that could be a comfortable home for live sport or live coverage of breaking news. The aim is very simple; we want to grow the number of eyeballs watching Seven product across the two channels and eventually, hopefully, a portfolio of channels.
How many homes does it reach?
More than half of Australian television homes can receive the digital channels and we think that the advent of 7TWO is going to drive that uptake, which has been solid so far, much faster than expected.
Who is the main acquisition executive?
Angus Ross is Seven’s head of acquisitions and Graeme Hill is scheduling the channel so between them they are sourcing, identifying, purchasing and locking in the content.
Do Seven’s output deals feed into this channel?
We have been using some overflow from output deals but we have also been making some prudent package buys.
What type of shows are you looking for?
We’re looking for high-volume, low cost per episode stuff. As we’re starting out we have a small budget and that thriftiness extends to the marketing spend as well as that’s why we’re looking at stripping stuff where possible. It promotes itself as it goes along and we’re finding that the audience is growing by the day as they discover programs on the schedule. As well, we’ve picked up some timeless classics like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. In time we’d like to see 7TWO become the home of some excellent programs that have stood the test of time.
Do you expect to produce original content for the channel as well?
We’d all like to get the business to a point where the production of original content for it was viable. I sincerely hope that happens sooner rather than later. Seven is the biggest producer or television in Australia and for us to have the chance to seed something on 7TWO and grow it to the point where it can cut it on the main channel would be ideal. It isn’t going to happen in the next six months but I think as a group we all want it to get to that point sooner rather than later.