GEM is Nine’s third channel and the channel that took away Nine’s main channel HD simulcast when it launched September 26, 2010. The announcement for the new channel came two weeks after Seven announced it would launch its third channel 7mate on September 25, right after the 2010 AFL Grand Final.
Unlike ABC News 24 and 7mate, GEM did not move to a different LCN (logical channel number) than the channel it replaced Nine High Def or 9HD, causing some confusion to viewers not familiar with the change.
From the outset, GEM promised viewers a mix of general entertainment and movies “in stunning high definition”. Using Lisa McCune as the face of GEM, the channel was planned to aim more towards a female demographic while still providing sport on high definition in order for Nine to meet their HD sporting commitments.
As the channel went to air, questions were raised about how sport would fit into a female skewed channel and what would happen to being able to see Nine’s main channel content in HD. GEM was to air the Four Nations Rugby League in HD, as well as Nine’s summer of cricket in HD including the Ashes and One Day series but the network back flipped on these HD simulcasts, in favour for GEM’s own unique programming which would supposedly deliver more ratings to the network as a whole than HD simulcasts of sport would.
GEM has been used on occasion to provide sport coverage when the main channel has provided rolling news coverage of major natural disasters and events.
Before GEM went to air, many of Nine’s regular programs were simulcast in HD on Nine’s HD channel. Nine even rebuilt some of their news studios to look better in HD. Regular shows like Two and a Half Men, Top Gear, The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist, all of the CSI franchise as well as local productions like the various Underbelly series were all able to be seen in HD on Nine High Def or 9HD. During prime time, there was generally more content in HD than there wasn’t.
With the advent of GEM, that is no longer the case. Other than ONE HD, GEM is the only HD multi channel promoted as being a HD channel. While the content of GEM does not appeal to the majority, there are a number of shows on GEM in HD including repeats, encores or simulcasts of content from Nine.
HD programs on GEM include Today 5.30am – 9.00am weekdays, The Closer, Law & Order, The Ellen Degeneres Show at 5pm weekdays, The Mentalist, the Harry’s Law replays on Friday nights as well as the CSI’s on Saturday nights. Most of the movies that GEM play are in HD – even some of the old movies that fill weekend day time timeslots are in HD as such – which of course is possible, using the original film as a source. Gone With the Wind for example – made in 1939 – plays on GEM in HD (next airs Sunday April 10, 3.30pm).
McLeod’s Daughters which airs on weekdays at 3pm is in HD, as is hit sitcom Friends, now airing in double episodes on weekdays at 6pm – having been remastered to both wide screen and HD.
Including Friends, there is 27 hours of HD programming per week on GEM during the prime time hours of 6pm to midnight. That amounts to an average of just under 4 hours per night out of the 6 prime time hours. Saturday night has the most, with movies from 6.30 and three CSI’s after the movie, while the Thursday night line up is devoid of anything HD after 7pm.
During the day, there is a further 6.5 hours of HD content on weekdays and varying amount on weekends, depending on which of the movies are made in HD.
In terms of a free to air source for HD content, GEM exceeds that of ONE HD, but still leaves a lot of the more populous content from Nine’s main channel that the network has available in HD, airing in standard definition only on Nine’s main channel.
Nine say that where ever possible, they source all content in HD. Good news for the future perhaps. Nine even has HD versions available of content that airs on GO! Many of the movies in their library are in HD.
An interesting side point, with the current programming on GO! being made up of mostly movies and Big Bang Theory repeats, if GO! was a HD channel, it would have just as much, if not more content in HD than GEM does.
If providing HD content was the focus here, between GEM and GO, Nine could have a channel that is 100% HD in prime time, leaving all the non-HD stuff for the second standard definition channel.
Next time: 7mate – the channel that occupies Seven’s HD stream.
Note: HD programming details based on the week April 10-16, 2011.
To read more about thoughts of what Nine should to get the most out of their digital channels, click here.
Click here to go to part one, and index.