Watching the Australian Open Tennis is getting more and more frustrating with Seven refusing to show any match past 6pm (AEDT) regardless of who is playing and how the game is progressing. Even the number one player in the world – Roger Federer – gets the “it’s 6pm, we must leave for the news” treatment. It has happened to matches with Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, and Stosur. Pretty well everyday there have been games not seen by those in the eastern daylight saving time zone after 6pm while Seven goes to the news, followed by Today Tonight and Home and Away. Meanwhile, viewers not in eastern daylight saving time suffer having the night time games delayed to suit a 7.30pm start in their own time zone.
Seven have defended their actions, despite being bombarded with viewer complaints and phone calls saying they have to honour their commitments to the nightly 6pm programming. They have even gone as far to say that, had they have stuck with the tennis after 6pm, arch rival Nine would have won the news time slot for the night. Is Seven that concerned about Nine beating them in news that they cannot go for a few days without the news being at 6pm? It would seem the decision to pull tennis matches mid way are favoured over delaying the news because the news delivers better ratings. Seven also say that their clients are happy with their coverage and delivery of service – which really sums up what it is all about – Seven is a business, and it is more important to satisfy advertisers then it is the overall population.
Sure – the overall population contribute to the ratings and therefore the money that they make from advertising, but surely there needs to be an obligation to show such a major sporting event the way it should be. This year, there is not even the option of seeing it on Foxtel as Seven asked fro too much money for the rights to show it. Therefore we are stuck only with coverage on Seven. And due to anti-siphoning laws, come 6pm, Seven cannot show the tennis on 7TWO or 7HD.
The Australian Open Tennis only runs for two weeks. It is the major grand slam for both Australia and Asia. It is one of the big four as far as tennis is concerned. And the two weeks it runs in is supposedly non-ratings season – which by definition, should mean that petty ratings decisions like showing the 6pm news because it will rate better should not have to come into it.
If Seven are not going to properly commit to showing the tennis properly – which would showing matches to the end even if they cross over 6pm, then they should perhaps consider letting the rights go to someone who can. Ideally, however, the tennis should be shown on more than one channel as there can be more than one important match going on at any given time. Which is why Foxtel is best suited to give proper coverage of the tennis. Then again, so could any free to air network if they were allowed to show first run sports on their digital channels – again getting back to anti-siphoning laws – which surely should be changed some time this year so we can all enjoy better free to air sports coverage at the same time as networks honouring their own programming commitments.
To another point, the free to air television code of practice was recently amended covering issues like classifications on digital channels and advertising rules. It would appear that no rule is in place to govern the amount of cross promotion in sports coverage. The amount of cross promotion during the tennis of up and coming Seven shows has reached a point of being unbearable, not to mention having to listen to commentators who probably could not give a rats arse about shows like Cougar Town, My Kitchen Rules, etc talk and laugh about these shows while they try to promote them. It happens on Nine as well with the cricket, but Seven’s tennis coverage takes cross promoting to the extreme. No wonder ratings are down for the tennis.
Finally, here’s what should happen next year with the Australian Open Tennis (in my opinion), assuming that Seven will still be showing it but also assuming no change in anti-siphoning laws meaning they cannot use 7TWO or 7HD to show the tennis if it is not on the main channel Seven.
1. Matches that go past 6pm continue to be shown. The news then is aired for half an hour at the conclusion of the match. On screen messages tell viewers that the news will be on after the match currently showing. Meanwhile, Seven could opt to show the news at 6pm on 7TWO, repeated later on Seven.
2. Matches are live in all markets, all times of day. Again, the news simply has to fit in between matches, but can still be shown on 7TWO 6pm.
3. Today Tonight should be either rested for the two weeks or shown at an alternative time like in the morning before the tennis. There is no need for Today Tonight to be on during the tennis, at least not while games are being played.
4. Home and Away should not return until after the tennis. Again, there is no need to have it on while games are being played. This may mean that the series has to finish a week later in December, but that should not be a problem.
5. Cross promotion needs to be limited to a sensible level. Having commentators talk about up and coming shows they have never seen is not believable anyway.
6. In order for more than one match to be shown at a time, there should be a deal with Foxtel where they show other matches. Seven can still maintain exclusivity for the major matches, but so long as they are being shown live and uninterrupted.
Some info referred to sourced from www.tvtonight.com.au