7TWO: TV’s “best kept secret”

"How well do you reckon the details of 7TWO have been kept secret?" Seven programmer Tim Worner asks TV Tonight. Seven finally unwraps its present to "heartland Australia."

7TWOWhen the Seven Network finally unveiled its new digital channel, 7TWO, last week, it sent a clear message to its rivals. It was not going niche.

Unlike the sports-mad ONE and the youth-skewed GO!, 7TWO is a defiantly broad entertainment channel.

As Programming chief Tim Worner told TV Tonight, he is happy to embrace anybody with ‘a set of eyeballs and a digital telly.’

“We’ve gone for a strategy that uses our main channel to sell our digital channel. We lead in the main channel stakes. Our aim is to grow the number of people watching Seven product over two channels and eventually over a portfolio of channels,” he said.

“I don’t tend to pay too much attention to what’s going on elsewhere. We set our course and sail to that.”

With its mix of largely British and US titles, 7TWO’s feature attractions are the promise of prime slots for favourite titles including Lost, 24, Ugly Betty and Heroes.

“The counterprogramming strategy is pretty simple. In its most obvious execution you’d have Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters on Channel Seven and then over on 7TWO you might have, for argument’s sake, Ultimate Cage Fighting and Family Guy. That’s our thinking.

“We’re not steering away from our digital on the main channel. On the contrary you’ll see the digital channel promoted on Seven and you’ll see a heap of promotion for Seven on 7TWO.”

Already the channel has enjoyed promotions on Seven ahead of its launch this Sunday at 12pm with its politically-inspired “It’s Time” campaign song.

“One thing that’s annoyed us is this speculation that ‘they don’t know what they’re doing… they don’t have a plan!’ In fact we’ve known exactly what we’re doing for a very long time and it’s been like having a present under the tree, and not being able to unwrap it.”

In order to keep the industry guessing, Worner hints at some crafty manouvering.

“How well do you reckon the details of 7TWO have been kept secret?” he asks. “I’ve never known a better kept secret in Australian television. There were all sorts of moves to make sure things rolled that way.”

Channel Mate, 7PLUS and PLUS7 were amongst some names which appear to be red herrings.

“What about those bloody logos? I did them myself on the gestetner machine,” he laughs.

“When we sat down to work out the name of the channel 12 months ago, we were considering all these names. Red, Ruby, Bill, Dave, Tom, Dick, Harry,” he teases. “In the end we kept coming back to the power of that big, red 7 and the trust that’s been built in that brand over the last five years. And I know you bloggo people don’t like to admit it, but you know something? Heartland Australia sees that 7 and they trust it. They know that is going to have some good shows on it.”

7TWO is set up in such a way that it has the ability to include a number of genres, a particularly strategic move given the Anti-Siphoning list is under review.

“We wanted a brand that’s got utility,” he says.

“We want to be able to run sport, comfortably on the channel. We want to be able to run live breaking news on the channel, comfortably.”

While he hasn’t locked anything in, Worner expects that some titles, including the Heroes, Lost, 24 and Ugly Betty brands, may yet have a life on Seven, but on 7TWO they will run at 7:30 or 8:30. There are also reruns of HBO brands including The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, but Worner denies this is an indication of a 7-HBO distribution deal.

“No Free to Air has a deal with HBO. The Pacific is something we bought a long time ago. It’s extremely powerful. I’ve now seen 3 episodes of that show. You don’t watch that show, you feel that show. It is the last of the great miniseries because of the economic model in the US. There will never be another miniseries like that where they spend over $200m making it. It just won’t happen. And that’s why HBO have delayed and delayed the premiere until 2010. It is truly riveting television.”

From the LA screenings Worner also picked up the HBO drama, Hung, which it will air in Australia following its Showtime premiere.

“Essentially it’s a show about a bloke with a whopping schlonger and you think ‘That is going to be a ribald comedy.’ But when you see the show it is anything but that. It’s a very warm show with a real heart and it’s got a couple of great characters out in front that you identify with, you barrack for, it’s a great show.”

So where does the arrival of 7TWO leave 7HD? Worner says it will remain a simulcast of Seven for the time being.

“But our aim is very clear. We want to grow the number of viewers of Seven product. We make a lot of product ourselves, and we want to grow the number of people watching that product across two channels, and eventually, hopefully, all things going the way we’d like, across a portfolio of channels.

“Everything about our channel is broad. From the name, right through to the schedule, right through to the thinking. That is absolutely the way we’re going, and that’s different to the way the others have played their cards.”

When it launches on Sunday, 7TWO will be the final commecial channel to be added to the Freeview suite. It represents a growing confidence in the television sector and for Programmer Tim Worner, it’s a present to viewers and advertisers.

It may have taken some time to unwrap, but he points to a confluence of events that indicated 7TWO was ready to roll.

“There are big sporting events with a lot of eyeballs on the main channel. Possibly improving economic conditions, a bunch of things. A confluence of things. The timing is right. ‘It’s Time.'”

7TWO launches 12pm Sunday on Ch 72 and is accessible via a digital television or digital set top box.

89 Responses

  1. good interview david, it answered a lot of my questions. especially re: HBO output deal.

    i knew that all these trademarks were red herrings maybe he got the idea when GO! was first announced as a possible name here. i guess this brings question to the feburary 2009 launch announcement and the november or Feb2010 decision. were they just pulling our leg there as well?

    i think 7 have got it right with doing a broad audience instead of niche. makes sense to me.

  2. I would say ABC3 would be unemployed children rather than working families. As someone who grew up watching a lot of ABC programming I think ABC3 will be fantastic for kids.

  3. Worner: Now 7Two’s done, fix 5:30 in Queensland. Deal has been on the highway to hell up here, since September. Seven’s reminding viewers of it’s past local content, in days. Put the two together, and BTQ’s “A’oK flu” will be cured with a dose of local content.

  4. Wow that’s one load of BS which in short means… We’re using this second channel to dump all the programs that don’t work on 7

    And of course this was the best kept secret in Television, they only worked out which direction to go in last month when Go! staretd lifting 9’s share.

    FFS… Industry spin has gotten bad.

  5. By Dec 31, 2013 when analogue is switched off and we are 100% digital, these new digital networks should all have Australian content requirements.

    Seven, Nine & Ten are all required to have 55% Australian content between 6am and midnight.

    7TWO, Go! and One! should all be required to have at least 15% Australian content between 6am and midnight. That’s about 3 hours a day, and 2013 is 5 years from when the government allowed these new digital nets.

    So 5 years to get 3 hours of original programming up a day is not a huge ask. I think it’s a little disturbing how little Australian programming there is.

  6. @ Neon Kitten
    You nailed it. He sits back while ONE and GO! are launched and then reveals his plan for digital domination?! What an arrogant w*nker.

  7. At least there is some British as well as US programming on 7TWO, unlike Go. It would be good to see some more local stuff though. Anyone know if there are plans to impose an Australian/NZ content quota on the digital stations as there is on the analogue ones?

  8. Worner makes such a big deal about the fact they were able to keep this new channel a big secret! Saying “I’ve never known a better kept secret in Australian television. There were all sorts of moves to make sure things rolled that way.”
    Why would they want to keep it a secret? Wouldn’t they want their advertisers and viewers to know what they were planning? And it’s not as if the end result was such a huge shock anyway. Seven are terrified of losing any of the audience from their main channel, so they are going to try to target a different audience with 7Two. Good luck with that! They already have a huge share of the 50+ audience on Seven, and it looks like most of the shows (like all the British product) will target exactly that audience, so the nights they do have a younger skewing show, it will be hard to get that younger audience to tune in because their scheduling will be all over the place.
    Can’t believe it’s taken them this long to come up with such a boring, unimaginative and unfocused channel. Just more of the same…except when it’s not.

  9. Also the longest kept secret with the worst ads. Should have had a channel months ago Seven so don’t go trying to make yourselves sound good, all you’re doing is trying to catch up. That said a lot of good shows on offer and i’ll prob watch this more than GO!

  10. That would have to be the biggest load of hogwash that I’ve ever heard. They’ve made 7Two exactly like Channel 7. Where’s the variety in that? At least I can confidently turn on either One or Go! and know that I will get something completrely different to what is on their main channel.
    Why would Tim Worner want to be able to run live breaking news on 7Two? Thats what the main channel is for!!

    7Two; more like what a pile of No 2’s!!

  11. what arrogance. I think 7 need to take a step back and learn from the mistakes 9 made 5 years ago. They are at the top of their game at the moment and don’t they know it. Anyone would believe Tim Worner has changed the face of TV with the above quotes.
    I completely agree with Neon Kitten.

  12. I’m more impressed with his brave use of the word ‘schlonger’ than anything else he spouted here! Not all Australians were as gullible as you thought mate.

  13. I like the fact the Seven has kept it’s branding across the two channels rather than invent a new name like GO or ONE…. and it’s upcoming programming looks very exciting indeed.

  14. Greta interview.

    I never saw GO! as youth orientated but I guess it just comes down to the shows you want to watch. 7TWO will be strong competition from GO! in 2010 and it’s good to heard Lost and others may not be restricted to the the channel, even if viewers may have to wait a little longer to see them on their old analogue TVs.

  15. the way worner works and speaks reminds me to steve jobs and his strategies for apple. take this tablet that’s coming out soon (the apple slate, apparently in its working title). you wait and wait and wait, but when it finally comes out, its usually 99% awesome (yes, apple does has bad days as well).

    counter-programming was the keyword in this article. and it rings true and strong. in fact, when you think about it, seven is doing what ABC did with 2 & 3, and the BBC in the UK. Not only will it be a network of stations, but a network of channels.

  16. Yeah, sure. It was all a master plan from the genius mind of Worner. Fake channel names, logos copied on a hand-cranked duplicator, grand statements, arrogance and ego.

    The reality, of course, is that Seven’s waited to see what everyone else was doing before deciding where they’d take their second channel, and then had to go into panic mode after Nine showed them how it’s done.

    Never trust anyone whose main vocabulary is marketing-wank. Sailing analogies (!). “Grow” the audience. “Portfolio”. “Trust”. “Utility”. And oh, the nausea of “Heartland Australia”! What’s next, Tim, “working families”? Oh, sorry, that’s ABC3.

    Careful, buddy. Australians can always spot a man spouting bull.

    And “Ultimate Cage Fighting”?? Classy.

    By the way, “The Pacific” is hardly going to be the last high-budget mini-seris from US cable. But then, Seven has a financial stake in the actual production of this one, so any claims of greatness are rendered kinda invalid from this source. Oh, and HBO delayed the premiere until 2010 not because it’s the mini-series to end them all, but because, well, it’s not actually finished yet.

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