I’m all for having more channels and therefore more choice of what to watch on free to air TV, but not at the expense of being able to see significant sporting events as well as other major programming in HD.
When Nine launched GEM back in September, it came with the promise that the channel would include HD coverage of all of Nine’s Wide World of Sports events including the Four Nations Rugby League matches and all the Cricket over summer.
A few weeks ago, Nine decided NOT to run an HD simulcast of the Four Nations on GEM in favour for typical Gem programming of the night. Then, last week, they decided NOT to simulcast the cricket in HD on GEM.
At first, it looked like they were avoiding the HD simulcast of just the lower profile Australia A Vs England matched in Hobart, but the amendments to remove cricket simulcasting in HD quickly extended to the Ashes as well.
Again – regular programming replaced the cricket.
The few HD simulcasts that have so far aired on GEM have made little difference to ratings. With Nine not separating those watching Nine and those watching GEM, we can only assume that about one third of all those watching an event that is simulcast on Nine and GEM were watching it in HD.
Not showing HD simulcasts of sport during prime time at night can easily be explained away as a move to maintain prime time ratings – but taking away HD simulcasts during the day – when the Ashes is played this time round – is hard to explain away as day time ratings figures do not count towards the all important prime time shares that decide who wins in ratings.
One thought is that Nine and GEM will make extra money in advertising during the day by having three different channels running – while the HD simulcast effectively reduces then down to showing two channels.
With day time television on the main channel being watched by between 100,000 and 150,000 and the digital channels attracting figures of 10,000 – 30,000 for day time programs* – NATIONALLY – you’d think the advertising dollar difference would actually be minimal compared to the backlash and possible loss of viewers upset over not being able to see the Ashes in HD?
Add to that, the fact that the Ashes is watched by MORE people combined than the numbers that would normally watch any of Nine’s or GEM’s daytime programming and you’d think Nine would be doing what they can to keep these fans happy. Just the Australia A match alone was watched by 177,000 in the afternoon session on its first day.
Nine are busy promoting the up and coming Ashes as the best ever, and with such comprehensive coverage – but surely – if at the same time they could promote it as being in HD – then they would EASILY make up for the 10,000 viewers or so that miss out on seeing a few shows during the day on GEM? Only a few of them are even in HD anyway.
Everytime I think of this, I find it hard to understand the motivation for not showing the Ashes in HD. Every story that appears on websites like this one about the cricket is loaded with comments bagging the fact it is not in HD. Some people go as far as saying – yes they care about the results but will not bother to watch it when it is not in HD.
Sure – we have had to watch these events in standard definition or lower before – and not had a problem with it, but now so many people have larger TVS, the lower definition coverage simply looks bad compared to HD. We have the technology, lets use it.
The very same issues will arise in January when Tennis fans will question why Seven are not showing the Australian Open in HD on 7mate. Seven also promised HD sport when they launched 7mate. So far none of that has been seen either.
The up and coming changes to anti-siphoning laws will possibly allow sport to be shown on digital channels before it is on main channels – which will allow networks to show their nightly news at 6pm while continuing sports coverage on a digital channel, but will not necessarily mean we see it in HD.
Unless extremely out of date HD requirements for the free to air networks are not also updated at the same time, we will be left behind in Australia as far as HD free to air TV is concerned. Changes to anti-siphoning laws should also specify a minimum HD sport requirement that the networks must adhere to.
Again – it is great to have all these extra channels to chose from, but the focus seems too much now on quantity, as opposed to quality of content. Now that there are more channels, just look at how much content on these channels are repeats and how much shorter repeat cycles are now.
And look at how little we now have available in true or native HD.
* Figures based on five city metro OzTam shares for regular Nine, GEM and GO weekday day time programming from 9am – 4pm.