Seven upfront about 2015 TV plans

VANESSA WILLIAMS
House Rules 2014 winners Adam Dovile and Lisa Lamond with judge Wendy Moore at the Seven Network 2015 Upfronts in Sydney

A helicopter suspended from the ceiling, a live X Factor performance, a personal tour led by some of Australia's top TV talent - these were some of the rockstar tactics employed by the Seven Network during its star-studded 2015 program launch at Sydney's Fox Studios earlier today.

This year, Seven veered away from its usual presentation style to instead follow the lead of its US TV counterparts by taking the Upfront approach where content is shown to guests in an interactive setting.

Opening the event, Seven West Media chief executive Tim Worner outlined the network's plan to maintain its lead as Australia's No.1 primetime network, a title it has held for eight consecutive years, until the year 2020.

"This is not a 12-month plan," he said. "This is a path that keeps us No.1 until 2020."

Close to 80 media buyers, advertisers and journalists were led through three specially themed rooms by network personalities including Sunrise presenters David Koch, Samantha Armytage and Natalie Barr and Winners & Losers actress Virginia Gay to get a glimpse of what the network has in store for next year.

A smorgasbord of reality TV shows will spearhead Seven's content next year, with My Kitchen Rules, The X Factor, two seasons of House Rules and Dancing with the Stars all set to return.

Inspired by the former My Restaurant Rules series, a new reality cooking series, Restaurant Revolution, will also hit screens next year.

There will be plenty of Australian-made drama with the debut of psychological thriller Catching Milat, based on the investigation into the infamous backpacker murders and subsequent arrest of serial killer Ivan Milat in the 1990s, and the epic documentary drama Australia: The Story of Us, which weaves together stories pulled from Australian history which have shaped the country.

Australia's favourite TV mum Rebecca Gibney will return to screens in Winter, a follow-up to her crime telemovie The Killing Field.

Gibney's former Packed to the Rafters co-star Erik Thomson is also gearing up to appear in his own series, starring as a widowed father who makes a whirlwind move to New Zealand in 800 Words.

Seven will also pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing next year, airing special Sunday Night series Gallipoli: The Power of Ten.

Hosted by Victorian Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, it will tell the stories of the 10 ANZACs who received our highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.

On the international TV front, Seven will air new US dramas including the David Duchovny crime drama Aquarius, the high-action drama State of Affairs starring former Grey's Anatomy actress Katherine Heigl and How to Get Away With Murder, the hit new legal drama from TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes.

Seven's sports coverage for 2015, which will kick off with The Australian Open coverage airing on both Seven and 7TWO, was presented in a room decked out as a sports locker and wafting with the smell of Dencorub.

Punters were then transported to the Outback to get a glimpse of the Australian-made content to air next year, then to showcase its lifestyle and reality programs Seven seated guests in comfy lounges dotted throughout a living room set up.

Stars and TV personalities who addressed the upfront presentations included former Australian Olympian Cathy Freeman, House Rules judge Wendy Moore and 2014 winners Adam Dovile and Lisa Lamond, 2011 My Kitchen Rules winners Sammy and Bella, Better Homes and Gardens cook "Fast Ed" Halmagyi, 2014 and Sunday Night host Chris Bath.

The interactive launch concluded with guests being led backstage to the studio where X Factor is filmed, with former X Factor contestant Nathaniel Willemse performing his latest top-taping hit and theme song to this year's Dancing with the Stars, Live Louder.