Now that both Seven and Ten have announced their third channels, what is going on at Nine?
Within hours of the 7mate announcement by Seven, rumours of Nine getting their third channel to air beforehand flourished with possible genres for the channel including classic TV, crime and a female skewed channel. But even after Ten’s announcement of Eleven for 2011, no word from Nine.
Suddenly – Nine then announce they will broadcast the NRL Grand Final in 3D, bit did so without ACMA approving another trial 3D broadcast. ACMA were quick to point out that Nine had not submitted a report on the previous trial in time, and therefore could not be granted another 3D broadcast trial. Therefore no NRL Grand Final in 3D.
Nine could perhaps use the existing HD service to transmit side by side 3D, but that would mean no HD coverage of the NRL Grand Final for those who do not have a 3D TV. However, if a new channel is launched before the Grand Final, regardless of whether the new channel becomes the HD channel or if GO is upgraded to HD to make way for a new SD channel (each commercial network can only have 2 SD and 1 HD channels – the main has to be SD – so, in order to have 3 channels, one of the secondaries has to be HD), then would HD coverage of the Grand Final (and for that matter, the entire NRL finals series) be seen in HD in any case?
If GO went HD, then GO would have to break programming for NRL. Same as a new channel would should that be in HD. 7mate for Seven – which will be in HD – have already included sport as part of the channel’s programming – so they have prepared for this sort of scenario. Needless to say, the launch with the AFL Grand Final in HD confirms that fact. As for Nine, without any firm plans yet, we can only speculate on what we know so far.
All of these issues raise a number of questions.
1. If Nine are launching a third channel at about the same time as 7mate late September, will that mean that NRL broadcasts will not be seen in HD?
2. Whether it be GO or the new channel that ends up in HD, will programming break to provide HD coverage of major sporting events like the Grand Final.
3. If they are unable to obtain another 3D trial license, what is stopping them from using their existing HD channel to provide side by side 3D coverage of the Grand Final? If we were about to completely lose 9-high Def to a new channel, then couldn’t they break from it during this event and thereby still be able to lead the way as such in 3D free to air TV? It may annoy some people, but is a reasonable option, I would have thought.
4. Let’s think outside the square – SBS and Nine shared the use of the trial 3D channel from May to July. Why not do a deal with SBS and use their HD channel SBS HD – currently a simulcast of SBS ONE – for a 3D broadcast. That way, Nine’s three channels (assuming the 3rd is launched) could remain untouched, and the NRL Grand Final could be seen in 3D as well as HD on Nine subject to what I have already said about how they handle HD broadcasts of sporting events when they have three channels. Afterall – SBS does need the funds.
5. Put it onto Foxtel. The great thing about the World Cup Soccer from SBS a few months ago, was it could also be seen on Foxtel and Austar. This meant that many more viewers who could not receive the free to air signals on digital channel 40 (and there were a lot of them) were able to see the 3D coverage for free through their Pay TV service.
If Nine were serious in pursuing 3D TV, then this would surely be a better option, and could reach out to a lot more people than just the trial free to air 3D broadcast alone. Doing something with SBS or Foxtel, however, would probably require some special or temporary license conditions to make it possible.
Here’s my prediction as to what ends up happening:
1. Nine fight ACMA to get the 3D go ahead at the last minute, so we end up having another 3D trial for the NRL Grand Final. Harvey Norman blitzes us with ads for 3D TV sets.
2. GO is completely rebranded, focussing more on contemporary shows, re-affirming position to target the 14-39 year old demographic. As part of the move, it is upgraded to HD, and its programming objectives are modified to allow HD coverage of sport, like 7mate will. GO’s classic programming moves to the third channel, while having GO in HD suit’s the channel airing more movies, especially those that are more recent. Movies will also compete with what 7mate will be doing.
3. The third channel is launched as essentially a classic TV channel, a cross between TV1 and 111 Hits, but focussing more towards female skewing programming. The move towards classics allows a wide variety of shows and keeps it competitive with Eleven, while female skewing is an attempt to take some of the audience left behind by 7mate which will be male skewing.
These are just my thoughts on what Nine might do, based only on some rumours, and consideration for the programming they currently air on GO, Nine and may have up their sleeve.
As you can see, the equation for Nine is actually quite tricky, and probably one the network would be better off putting more time into as opposed to rushing in, just to get a third channel on air before Seven does.
While I am a great advocate for choice through extra channels, I disagree with the fact that it should be at the expense of HD main channel programming – sport in particular which is one of the main driving forces of HD take up – and I think the HD channels like 7mate and whatever Nine end up doing should still show major sporting events in HD as well as key main channel programming. In the case of Ten and ONE HD, they already have sport covered in HD, but at the expense of regular Ten programming in HD.