Last week at the Screen Forever conference in Melbourne, Seven execs spoke to producers about the best ways to pitch content to them.
Angus Ross, Director of Programming and Stevie K. Murray, Executive Producer, Light Entertainment were united in explaining that it was essential producers knew the network they were pitching to. Seven’s primary channel is big broad network, with research some years ago likening it to a “roast chook” network.
“If ever we try and do something too radical or too cool, most of the time it won’t work for us,” Ross explained, “so we can kind of add a few different vegetables around the side of the chook and people still enjoy it. But if we go and do something really weird they just kind of go, ‘No no.’ We’re the number one network, that’s important to us. And that means we’ve got to get people from from every every single demographic. But I think the roast chook (analogy) probably works to a certain extent.”
Murray explained that at first the network “recoiled” when the research likened it to roast chicken.
“Then finally somebody said ‘What’s wrong with roast chicken?’ And we realised there is nothing wrong with it! It’s tasty! It’s familiar! All of that sort of stuff. I think that was probably 10 years ago and we’re still roast chicken and proud!”
To the more specific point of pitching projects to Seven, Murray reiterated it was important to know where a project would work in Seven’s schedule.
“The first thing is always just knowing us, knowing where we have problems in our schedule, knowing what demographics we’re trying to target, knowing if the idea is for a second channel who that channel is trying to target -it’s all those sorts of things. And get to know what would be a good fit for us,” he said.
“That is by far the first and most important thing and I guess if in a pitch it becomes apparent early that kind of research has not been done, then you kind of lose us and it just feels very much like ‘Oh you’re just shopping this around to everyone.’
“So it’s just knowing us, knowing our problems and there’s very active data that comes out every day that shows what our strengths and weaknesses are. That’s called the ratings and a digestion of that and seeing where we’re weak, in particular demos, is so important.
“I guess for me what makes a great pitch is the person pitching having done all the thinking for you. That is by far the best thing.
“Even coming up with programming suggestions as to where shows could could sit because there is always a problem in the schedule. Everyone knows television is a brutal business. There is always a problem. So anyone coming in and saying ‘Have you considered something like this? Perhaps to go here?’ is of huge benefit, I would think.
“It’s about having disciplined thinking to the point where you know sometimes somebody might pitch a fantastic show but then when you ask ‘How would that roll out, tell me about Episode Three.’ (There are) maybe no ideas there. So that disciplined thinking has to apply to a series or whatever.
“Also personally I really like seeing what the idea would appear like in a promo and that doesn’t need to be presented as a cut promo, but even just (as) a script. How do we sell this show? What is it’s top line? And how would we sell it on the roast chook network? What is going to make people think ‘Wow this is different, this is exciting!’ All those sorts of things.”
Angus Ross also spoke to the question of programmes for multichannels. Whilst Seven has commissioned titles such as Kinne and Bogan Hunters, the focus remains the primary channel.
“I get a lot of people emailing me -I don’t know where they get my email address from- but they are wanting to host their own Tonight shows and things like that. And things on very niche subjects which are all great. If you’ve got a niche channel catering to those areas. But it just comes back to what Steve said is: know our channels, know what we’re about and just don’t waste our time with stuff that’s simply not going to fly,” he said.
“We don’t do much commissioning for the digital channels. Most of them are purely acquisitions-based. The couple of things we have done for 7mate like Outback Truckers and Bogan Hunters have performed very well. But it’s a matter of finding the right sort of (funding) model there…. you know, dipping into funding in whatever state you’re coming from… because we don’t pay main channel rates for these shows.
“But the Aussie stuff particularly on 7mate does resonate.
“So if you’ve got an idea for blue-collar young blokes…. I have been pitched a number of ideas there but the funding model hasn’t been quite right. But it does work, the Aussie content. It’s not just wanting to watch Family Guy and all that sort of thing.”
The best approaches for project pitches are to Production or Development units within Seven.
“The protocol would be to contact Brad Lyons who’s Director of Production or Sonya Wilkes who’s our Head of Development and come in. They may take an initial pitch or they may call in Stevie and myself to join, depending what the show is, whether it’s a known show or anything like that,” Ross added.
“But that’s that’s the best way to do it.”
Tomorrow: How to Pitch to Nine.