Seven's chief digital officer on how he's transforming the media giant

Clive Dickens talks through the role of the chief digital officer, his content and digital asset plans, and how single customer experience is driving his efforts

Clive Dickens
Clive Dickens

Few industries have been as heavily disrupted by digital as the media industry. So perhaps the most pertinent question relating to Seven West Media’s decision to appoint its first chief digital officer late last year is: Why did it wait so long?

The appointment of UK media entrepreneur, Clive Dickens, to the CDO role after a two-year stint at Southern Cross Austereo was a signal to the market that Seven was centralising responsibility for its own digital transformation, rather than having it distributed amongst its various media formats.

“I see myself as a change agent within the business,” Dickens says. “We have all of these different distribution parts of these business, and we have made more investments in more verticals than nearly any other media company I can name, but we still do operate relatively siloed.

“Bringing those business together to understand that that collection of incredibly strong assets can work together with one single consumer experience that creates value is probably my biggest role and my biggest challenge.”

That Seven is serious about transformation is reflected in its decision to make Dickens’ CDO role one of the half a dozen members of the company’s Key Management Personnel, who report directly to its board.

“I think my CEO would endorse the view that I need to help my colleagues to reach an accelerated view of the potential of internal transformation,” Dickens says.

The changes that Dickens is making within Seven West Media had their most public manifestation on Melbourne Cup Day, when the broadcaster launched live streaming of all channels, as the culmination of a project which had only kicked off in April.

Read more: Dickens shares why the future of TV is addressing consumers across all connected device

“We had to get extended rights, we had to build a lot of infrastructure, we had to create the business model,” Dickens says.

Another transformation has been the creation of ‘shoppable’ content around related properties, starting with a food-related app that will launch during the next series of My Kitchen Rules.

“We are taking all of our food content, putting it into one central destination, and making all the content ‘shoppable’,” Dickens says. “So rather than just being a recipe site or a food site, you will be able to shop all of the content with all of the ingredients added to your cart of your favourite online retailer, which is a first in market.”

Dickens will also increase Seven West Media’s focus on social engagement around its linear TV programming.

“Between 6.00pm and 10.00pm social media conversation across platform is all dominated by television,” Dickens says. “We are going to harness the power of that and get mobile engagement while people are enjoying television.”

Future projects include a revamp of its streaming service for the Australian Open tennis tournament, which last year saw 3000 hours of content streamed live, in comparison to the 600 hours broadcast on linear television. From there, the focus will shift to Seven’s broadcast of the 2016 Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro.

“To work on a digital Olympics where my company owns the rights to all content on any screen, and any screen yet to be invented, all the way through to 2022 is pretty exciting,” Dickens says. “So we’ve got some pretty eye-watering plans around Olympics.”

Not all of the role is internal, however. Part of Dickens’ challenge is to also ensure that Seven can bring its advertising partners along on its digital transformation journey.

Dickens is working with advertisers to reduce the complexity of digital buying, which has already seen the creation of a cross-platform sales team called the Red Team as a single point of contact for brands wanting to purchase multi-platform sponsorships. And at its upfront briefings in late October, Seven announced a series of initiatives to simplify trading.

“We have to simplify the way in which people trade with our company,” Dickens says. “Programmatic is an important part of the roadmap for us, and we’ve already have a very sophisticated waterfall in Yahoo!7, which already allows our clients to trade their digital inventory that way. And last week we confirmed that we would be extending that type of exchange to our non-digital assets as well.”

Dickens says he was first attracted to Australia by the high usage of mobile technology by Australian consumers – a behaviour he believes transcends any traditional media format by pulling them all together into a single device. Understanding the power of mobile and ensuring that all parts of the company can use it to reach consumers effectively will remain a key challenge for Dickens into the future.

“When we are all fighting for attention on a mobile smart screen we all needed to collaborate, which is what we are doing,” he says.

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