Seven West Wields The Axe Amid “Challenging TV Landscape”

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

Seven West Media’s new CEO, James Warburton has stepped up his axing of staff and programs with the Sunday Night pubic affairs program cut yesterday, as well as the company’s corporate affairs head and publicity people in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

UP to 100 people are rumoured to be going, although Seven has not put a figure on the losses. Some could be very senior.

The cuts come after the long-time head of Seven sport, Shaul Stein (an appointee of former CEO, David Leckie) was let go on September 20.

There are also media reports of other senior executives sacked or to be retrenched short – all aimed at saving $20 million a year in costs before factoring in redundancy costs.

Seven’s Head of News and Current Affairs Craig McPherson yesterday confirmed that Sunday Night: True Stories (formerly just Sunday Night) would not continue in 2020.

“After 11 years at the forefront of our Public Affairs offering it is with much sadness I announce the closing down of the day to day operations of Sunday Night: True Stories,” he was quoted as saying in a statement to media.

“It has been a very tough decision in a very challenging TV landscape,” McPherson said.

“I want to thank the exceptional team of reporters; producers; camera operators; editors and many others who have helped produce more than 500 hours of quality public affairs programming over its lifetime.

The program itself will remain on-air until the end of the year. A small production team will stay on to produce existing product over this time.

The announcement comes after Seven posted underlying earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation) down 10.1 percent to $243.6 million over the 2019 financial year, with underlying net profit after tax falling 7.9 percent to $129.3 million. The broadcaster told shareholders earnings were likely to keep falling in 2020.

Mr. Warburton has spent the past few weeks since his appointment in August working out new divisions amid speculation he would change his executive team.

“Since starting I have been focused on streamlining the organisation to create a flatter structure, with content at its heart, where digital growth is maximised, duplication of roles is removed and we create agile teams with operating efficiency,” Mr. Warburton said in a company-wide email on Wednesday morning.

“In order to build for the future and make these structural changes, we have had to make some tough decisions. Sadly, some of our people will be leaving the company today, where there has been a duplication of roles across regions or we are creating simpler flatter structures.”

There will be three new executives appointed in the future, including a chief content officer, chief marketing officer, and chief digital officer. The digital and marketing roles are expected to be revealed soon.

Seven shares went nowhere on the news yesterday – up half a cent at 39.5 cents. Still, that was outperformance compared with the 102 point or 1.5% slump in the ASX 200.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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