In a throwaway line buried by an avalanche of data and new show details, Seven West Media CEO Don Voelte foreshadowed the company is poised to reveal what he said would be new “cost and revenue” initiatives. He told media buyers, advertisers and media at Luna Park in Sydney last night the new moves would be revealed at the company’s AGM in Perth on November 13.
No other details were announced, but it is known Seven has had a team of bean-counters looking at costs in the news and current affairs division, and elsewhere in the network.
“Cost” initiatives usually mean cost cuts, not increases. The new AFL contract with its four-game coverage on Seven (up from two in the previous contract) has boosted Seven’s costs this year, but that increase will peter out in the 2013 season.
The 2013 “strategy” launch for Seven was notable for two things: a lot of programming, new and returning, for next year; and new integration moves on research, online/digital platforms and ad campaigns for clients.
But like the mythical gorilla in the back of the room, or the very large elephant, the most tangible evidence of the crisis in the media as far as Seven is concerned wasn’t mentioned — the collapse in the Seven West share price. The shares closed at $1.26 yesterday on the ASX, down sharply from the 52-week high of $3.84, but up on the low of just $1.09 (the shares are down from around $1.70 in late June when Voelte’s surprise appointment was made).
But at least Seven has profits and revenues, and low debt. Nine, which will be bailed out today in yet another refinancing agreement, will end up with around $1 billion of debt and weak earnings. Ten, which reports its 2011-12 financial results tomorrow, will end up with low to non-existent profits, falling revenues and a weak schedule. Nine at least has the prospect of a moderately robust TV schedule for 2013.
Whether it will be as strong as Seven’s remains to be seen. From last night’s function, Seven has placed programs such as Packed To The Rafters and Australia’s Got Talent in the second tier of its offerings. A year ago they were top tier. A new series called A Place to Call Home is slated to replace Rafters if that show suffers another sharp loss in audience in 2013 as it did in the latter weeks of this year. Australia’s Got Talent was destroyed by The Voice on Nine — it had only a passing mention on screen last night, with attention in this genre focused on The X Factor (which is killing them) and a new series called Celebrity Splash (from Holland where Big Brother came from) — that’s being called “Diving With The Stars” (à la Dancing With The Stars, which is returning in 2013, but also in the second tier).
The dodgiest local idea is House Rules, which is a home renovation (Block spoiler) show based on My Kitchen Rules (which also returns) from the same producers. That one is rather grandiose and has a hint of The Renovators (Ten’s greatest flop).
New offshore series (ready downloaders) include Last Resort (Lost meets The Hunt for Red October, but American style); Red Widow (no, it’s not about Madame Mao — it has a touch of Lydia La Plante about it); Mrs Biggs (about Ronnie Biggs’ wife, a co-pro with ITV); Selfridges (another UK story, this time about a department store — Are You Being Served meets Downton Abbey, which also returns); and new US series Zero Hour (which looks dodgy with its Nazi references).