Now that Nine have commited to broadcasting the Rugby World Cup semis in HD, as well as the Trans Tasman Rugby League Cup this weekend (Oct 15 & 16), the question has to be asked what the network will do with the Olympics next year.
Nine have, since the luanch of GEM, shied away from HD sports coverage citing the need to provide more viewing options as being more important. This is despite the fact that HD sport was promised to remain when GEM launched.
Original article follows:
Nine months out from the London 2012 Olympics and Foxtel have revealed they will air the Olympics over 8 dedicated channels, all available in HD, 24 hours a day, continuously during the event and airing all Australian Gold Medals LIVE.
This coverage exceeds the 6 HD channels the pay TV provider offered for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 4 that covered the winter Olympics earlier in 2010.
By having joint rights between a free to air network and pay TV, you can always be assured that Pay TV will go all out to provide multiple channel coverage ensuring dedicated fans do not miss a thing – but it does come at a price.
While pricing for Foxtel’s 2012 Olympic packages won’t be released until later, it does beg the question of what those who do not have pay TV or chose not to pay extra to watch the Olympics will get on free to air TV.
Nine have the free to air rights for the 2012 Olympics. Nine now have three digital channels. For the 19% of households who are yet to convert to digital free to air TV, anti-siphoning legislation will guarantee that those people will not miss out on any of the coverage of major Olympic events by ensuring all such events are aired on Nine’s main channel.
But for the rest of us – the vast majority – the very same anti-siphoning rules will in effect prevent Nine from offering a free to air multiple channel coverage unless there starts being exceptions to these rules.
This could also mean that there is no HD coverage as Nine may opt to maintain the regular operation of its HD digital channel GEM during the Olympics to “provide viewers with other options”.
Nine’s track record with HD sport since GEM began last year has proven the network prefer to offer alternative programming on its multi channels rather than offering HD coverage of sport simulcast with the main channel.
Again, it is anti-siphoning that prevents any such event to be shown on the HD channel only meaning HD coverage can only be affected if it airs on the main channel as well as the HD channel.
Last year, when Ten and ONE aired the Commonwealth Games, coverage on Ten and ONE, as well as the third channel ONE SD was all simulcast. The network was able to achieve an exception for the 5pm news, meaning that Commonwealth Games could continue on ONE HD and ONE SD while Ten aired the nightly news.
In 2008, before there were commercial digital multi channels, Seven’s coverage of The Beijing Olympics was simulcast over the main and HD channels. This also included the channel that would become 7TWO – 72 – at the time nothing more than a main channel stream.
So what will happen in 2012? With one year out, Nine should be approaching Senator Conroy now for exceptions to be able to provide a multi channel coverage of the 2012 Olympics. That is, of course, if the deal with Foxtel precludes Nine from providing any more than a single channel coverage.
If that was indeed the case, then is free to air viewers who are set to miss out. When a free to air network airs the Olympics, they are assured ratings wins for the duration of the games. So much so, that the Olympic weeks do not even count to which network wins the year.
Having said that, there is really no valid argument from a ratings perspective to run digital channels business as usual during the Olympics and that these channels – especially the HD channel which would be more better utilised to provide more diverse Olympic coverage – including both simulcast of events in HD and the opportunity to air two events at once those times when there are more than one event on at a time featuring Australia.
Generally, the time during Olympics on the other two commercial channels – in 2012 Ten and Seven – feature non-ratings style of programming.
So – will Nine air the Olympics in HD in 2012? Even if anti-siphoning rules mean the HD coverage has to be a simulcast of the main channel? We hope so. Better yet, we hope the Nine network as a whole are able to multi channel free to air coverage – which would be a first.
Or will we have to wait until Rio 2016 to finally have the free to air coverage we deserve once analogue is well and truly dead and buried?
Apart from advertising that the Olympics are a year away, Nine are yet to reveal broadcast plans for London 2012.