Reports are surfacing that Nine may launch their third channel even before Seven launches 7mate on September 25.
Unlike the surprise announcement from Seven, speculation has been floating around for months as to what Nine will do in relation to the third channel, with the launch date supposedly being held off until 2011.
But now with Seven’s announcement – in a ratings years where the battle between Seven and Nine is so incredibly close in who will be the overall winner for the year – Nine would risk losing ratings to Seven over their three channels after the launch of 7mate if they do not act now.
As September 25 is just over a month away, it doesn’t leave much time for Nine to make final arrangements for their new channel, which possibly could launch five or six days before 7mate.
A problem, however, for both new channels would be the fact that ratings will not be counted separately for these channels if either network have not lodged the new channel with Oztam within the 8 week timeframe required. Ratings for the new channel would remain part of the primary channel in the meantime.
It is possible that Seven already have lodged with OzTam for 7mate, but a mere impossibility for Nine for their channel seeing that the bringing forward of its launch is reactionary to Seven’s announcement of 7mate.
The format of Nine’s new channel is rumoured to be anything from classic TV, to a full time crime channel, to even a lifestyle based channel. GO is Australia’s most successful digital multi-channel in terms of overall shares – coming close to, and even overtaking SBS ONE in shares on many nights.
Nine will be looking to emulate the success of GO for the third channel. GO pulls good ratings with a mixture of fresh content, classic TV, movies and repeats of Nine shows. A classics channel – possibly called GEM – could mean that the classics move from GO to GEM, leaving GO to focus on more contemporary programming and GEM the classics.
As the third channel for Nine, like Seven, has to take over the HD channel (at this stage, all three commercial networks are only allowed 1 HD and 2 SD channels) the new channel will spell the end for HD simulating of main channel content. There is the possibility that Nine would move GO to HD – which makes more sense as it would have the contemporary content while the other channel – if classics – would not make sense – and would be a waste – if in HD. With Ten, we are already used to not having main channel content in HD, thanks to sports channel ONE HD. Ten’s third channel, when launched in 2011 will simply take over the standard definition simulcast of ONE HD (in metro areas).
For Nine – who actually show more and promote more HD content than any other the other channels – the third channel means the end of live sport in HD (subject to changes on anti-siphoning laws), and seeing in HD shows like Top Gear, Two and a Half Men, Underbelly, and many more shows made in HD – at least at the same time as the main channel.
As these channels launch, it will mean that all HD free to air TV content in Australia will be limited only to secondary channels (other than SBS at this stage). Not exactly an incentive for viewers to obtain HD receivers and TV sets if they only watch free to air TV.
Foxtel already offer many channels in HD including four sports channels, a number of movie channels, on demand content and some of the key general entertainment channels like FOX8 and W – with more to come later this year, and no doubt to be added to in coming years.
Not until 2014 when analogue is gone everywhere will we see the main channels possibly return to being in HD with the secondaries in SD – the way it really should be. Extra bandwidth freed up then could also mean that all of each broadcasters channels end up in HD.
Having all these extra channels may give viewers many more choices as to what to watch on free to air TV, but it is coming at the expense of quality.