Founded in 1957, the Seven Network is one of Australia’s most prominent commercial broadcasters and the only wholly owned network with national coverage.
In an Australian television first, Seven’s market-leading news division used the aptly named, Screen of Dreams, to support and enhance their coverage of Australia’s Federal Election in May 2022.
7NEWS Political Editor Mark Riley, Sunrise co-host Natalie Barr and 7NEWS presenter Michael Usher led an unrivalled team of journalists and political experts on election night, taking viewers through up-to-the-minute polling results as they flowed in live from thousands of booths across the country.
The Screen of Dreams allowed Riley to focus on communicating the story as it unfolded, in a visually appealing and easily digestible manner, for the Australian public.
As Australia’s #1 news service, 7NEWS heavily relies on information technology solutions as a key differentiator.
With fake news rampant and social media opinion pieces often shared as fact, it is increasingly falling on objective news organizations to lead the way in offering unbiased data and news to the citizens. Election data can often be complex and boring and for it to be digestible for the average person, an election coverage paradigm change was the need of the day.
Seven needed a data visualization solution to handle the electorate’s thirst for easy-to-understand information that could:
7NEWS collaborated with InterKnowlogy (IK) to design and develop an immersive and intuitive data visualization experience, Screen of Dreams. The Screen of Dreams integrates with live data feeds consisting of thousands of data points from different Government sources, aggregates the information, and enables the host to focus on story telling through real time data visualization in a simple and consumable way for hundreds of thousands of primetime viewers on live television.
IK collaborated with various stakeholders at 7NEWS to understand the challenges posed by the existing election coverage process. Our design team allowed the 7NEWS team to focus on enhancing the experience for the hosts, as well as their viewers, without worrying about technical challenges that arise when dealing with data from various sources.
It is a well-known fact that there is a sweet spot where creativity occurs. It’s at the intersection of:
Desirability: Are we solving the right problem?
IK puts humans (users) front and center when trying to design a solution. For this project, the IK design team focused on two users: Mark Riley, who operated theScreen of Dreams in the studio to tell his election stories, and the Seven viewers at home. The goal of the Design activities was to exceed expectations for both user categories.
Feasibility: What are our core strengths?
The core competency of IK is to design and develop experiences that abstracts technical challenges and allows users to focus on experiences that enable insights to be presented in an easily digestible and visually appealing manner. Every step of the way, the goal was to ensure that technical complexity did not hinder the experience that we were creating for Mark Riley or for Seven’s viewers. This was achieved by close iterative collaboration between IK and Seven teams during designing, prototyping and testing steps. The key was to be Agile and Iterative to provide a solution that Seven and their viewers would love.
Viability: For now, and future?
One of our goals during the Design phase was to ensure that the Screen of Dreams can be easily retrofitted to use for other Australian elections to save costs and provide a consistent user experience and branding.
Working in step with Seven, IK leveraged its customized discovery process to define business outcomes, understand requirements, and validate the technologies needed to create a custom architecture and user interface.
IK leveraged its deep expertise across both its backend and frontend engineering capabilities in delivering complex and immersive data visualization to create the Screen of Dreams.
To make the experience enriching, IK had to integrate with multiple data sources such as:
The Screen of Dreams software is deployed and hosted on the Cloud. This means that Seven did not have to worry about CAPEX or OPEX for hardware or networking infrastructure. Any software changes required were handled seamlessly by IK with minimal support from Seven’s IT people.
The entire solution was developed in an Agile manner which meant that Seven did not have to wait for months before they saw what the experience looked like. The Seven stakeholders were given demos of the experience evolution every week and they also had access to the latest features as they became available so that they could engage with it and give IK quick feedback if any changes were required.
Election night was a big success for Seven and the live election broadcast that was almost six hours in duration went without any hiccups.
The Screen of Dreams enabled Mark Riley to focus on narrating a compelling story as it unfolded while at the same time allowing him to interact with data in real time on the Screen of Dreams. It also kept more users engaged for longer.
The objective for Seven is to remain relevant as well as capture new audience and provide a point of difference. Seven is playing a long game and the innovations introduced, being the presentation of accurate and timely data in sync with political commentary was the goal that was successfully achieved.
SocialMedia feedback was another data point that suggested that Seven did better than previous elections and there was a noticeable absence of criticism.
In the end, the Seven Network successfully delivered one of Australia’s most in-depth and advanced coverage of the Federal Election on Saturday, 21 May 2022.
All Stakeholders at Seven were pleased with the outcome and enthusiastic about the enhancements for future State and Federal election coverage plans.
The Seven Network continues to work with IK on these future engagements.