‘I Ask For The TV Industry To Stand Up And Defend Itself’ – Seven Boss James Warburton Steps Down

‘I Ask For The TV Industry To Stand Up And Defend Itself’ – Seven Boss James Warburton Steps Down

Seven West Media’s managing director and CEO James Warburton has stepped down with immediate effect.

Jeff Howard, who until yesterday was CFO, has taken over the Seven West Media hot seat at a difficult time for the media company.

The company has temporarily appointed Craig Haskins as acting CFO until a full-time successor can be found.

Warburton was due to leave the business at some point in this financial year, but confirmed his departure yesterday.

Seven West Media chair Kerry Stokes thank Warburton “for his contribution to the business over many years” in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

In a staff email seen by B&T, Warburton said that he was “incredibly proud of everything we’ve achieved and how the business is positioned for the future”.

“I’m proud to have restored Seven to #1 in ratings in record time (two years) and #1 in revenue. Only two CEOs (and their teams) have achieved that in the history of Seven – the late, great and dearly loved David Leckie (and team) and our current team. So to all of you, congratulations.

“We have fought hard in the industry to implement VOZ and accurately measure audiences with the crucial inclusion of digital with a focus on the vital national number. With our unbeatable national footprint across Seven and 7plus, Seven will NEVER be beaten in the ratings on a national total TV basis (VOZ).”

In his outgoing email, Warburton said that he wants the TV industry to “stand up and defend itself from its critics”.

“I’ve always fought for the power of free to air TV and total TV and VOZ will continue to prove the naysayers wrong. When the market bounces back – which it will – it will reinforce the power of FTA,” he said. “My sincere thanks and gratitude to the chairman and the board for their leadership, commitment, and unwavering support.

“Television is a team sport and a team effort, and not many people can say they’ve led the best in the business. I can, and it’s been an almighty honour.”

Warburton rejoined Seven as the successor to former boss Tim Worner in 2019. He has led the business through a challenging advertising market with declines in linear TV audiences leading to double digit declines in linear TV advertising spend across the market last year.

Since taking the helm, Seven West Media has undergone a digital transformation, with group earnings in digital lifting from 2 per cent to 50 per cent, including new AFL and cricket deals with digital rights and NBCU (Bravo).

Warburton has been a prominent voice in trying to move TV measurement away from overnight ratings towards viewership over weeks, and 28 days, better reflecting how viewing habits have shift away from linear and towards on demand.

But his time at Seven has not always been smooth sailing. Warburton has been at the helm of a business that has been embroiled in recent scandals, including backing a failed defamation case by Seven West Media’s former Queensland GM and SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith, while more recently it has been revealed in court that producers of Seven’s Spotlight program paid for prostitutes and cocaine for alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann.

Warburton’s departure follows that of long-serving senior executive and legal counsel Bruce McWilliam, who left the business in March, and was regarded as one of Stokes closest lieutenants.

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