Seven Studios: “Never say never”

With Seven rebounding, where does it stand on Seven Studios, the Olympics & buying Prime Media?

With Seven rebounding under CEO James Warburton, media have been looking to Seven’s future plans.

In several interviews the Seven boss spoke about future Olympic rights, the future of Seven Studios and affiliation.

“We needed to reset the cost base and take out $200m. At the height of the pandemic we were able to generate $152m of cash and repay $250m of debt. It shows how important it can be to get the costs out. We have the lowest headcount at Seven since 2003. We are doing more with less. We have no plans to reduce numbers further,” he told Mediaweek.

“The Seven Studios business is effectively Home and Away and Better Homes and Gardens. We were looking to sell that and we have very, very little, if any, interest now. They are fundamentally critical programs for us and great performers.”

When asked if Seven will now keep that production business, Warburton said “definitely.” But he added, “Never say never. If someone turned up with a big cheque…”

Meanwhile, Seven previously tried to buy Seven’s regional affiliate partner, Prime Media Group, but the plans were thwarted by shareholders Bruce Gordon and Antony Catalano.

”Of course it makes sense to become a national television network,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. ”We’ve now got a range of options in the regional sector… We’ve got about 20 months left on our affiliation agreement, and now we’ve got options in terms of what we could do from a regional perspective and we plan to execute that. Step one is to refinance and then put ourselves in a position where we can lead the [industry] consolidation.“

With the Olympics at a $50m loss Seven looks to the impact on its remaining schedule but notes the company would be disciplined in any negotiations to secure more sports rights, including for future Olympic Games and for the NRL, which is currently talking to broadcasters.

“The notion that we’re going to go and blow our brains out is ridiculous. We’re going to make measured decisions around what the content delivers,” he said. “The Olympics were a $50 million loss and the Tokyo games were the first time since 2008 when the Olympics were in our timezone. And the east coast of Australia was in lockdown.

“That sounds like I’m taking away from the unbelievable job that our sport department, digital operations, and sales team can do. I’m not taking away at all, it was incredibly innovative. But the next two games are in an unfriendly timezone and the major action comes in the middle of the night.”

5 Responses

  1. The Seven/Prime affiliation agreement has only two years to run tvtonight.com.au/2018/08/seven-prime-media-agree-to-increased-affiliate-fees.html
    and likewise for 10/SCA tvtonight.com.au/2021/06/10-reaches-2-year-affiliate-deal-with-southern-cross.html
    so will be interesting to see Seven/Prime/SCA/10 manouverings in 2023.

  2. Warburton says “and now we’ve got options in terms of what we could do from a regional perspective” … is that a somewhat less than subtle comment directed at Antony Catalano that Southern Cross is just as much an “option” as Prime?

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