7mate was launched September 25, 2010, following the first AFL Grand Final of that year. Leading up to the launch of 7TWO, close to eleven months earlier, “Mate” was thrown around as a possibility of the name of the second channel. Seven were the last of all the networks to launch a second channel, but were the first of the commercial networks to launch the third channel.
Throughout the year, there had been plenty of rumour and speculation as to what Nine and Ten were doing for their third channels, both of which, at the time, were heading for a 2011 start date. Seven were so secretive in their plans for their third channel, that the late August 2010 announcement was a complete surprise.
Like GEM with Nine and ONE with Ten, 7mate meant the end of the main channel’s HD simulcast, which in metro markets was seen on channel 70, and therefore the loss of seeing a lot of Seven‘s content in HD. 7mate launched with the aim of attracting a mostly male audience, aiming for the 18-49 demographic.7mate landed on LCN 73, leaving LCN 70 to revert to a standard definition clone of Seven.
At 6pm, on September 25, after the AFL Grand Final concluded, 7mate kicked off with Gene Simmons Family Jewels. On its first night, the broadcast of 7mate continued on both LCN 70 and LCN 73, before 70 reverted to a standard definition clone of Seven over night.
Unlike GEM and ONE though, there was absolutely NO promotion suggesting this channel would have any HD content. And for a while there, it looked like it didn’t. The only mention of HD was that you need an HD tuner to receive the channel. Many forums had suggested that 7mate was nothing more than an SD feed, prompting the question as to how Seven would meet their HD content requirement of 1040 hours per year.
7mate promised a range of programming including American Dad, Family Guy, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Caprica, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, documentaries including The Universe, Mega Structures, Air Crash Investigations and a lot more. It also promised some sport – which so far, apart from AFL encores, the odd split market programming to cover some events and a little bit of racing, there has been virtually no sport on the channel.
Over the past seven months since launch, 7mate has grown into one of the highest rating digital channels, often attracting nightly audiences of 3-4%, and not far behind its sister channel 7TWO in shares. Its schedule has been very stable when compared to GO! and GEM, although there has been the odd last minute change from time to time.
But how much of 7mate programming is really in HD? Well, there are a number of programs 7mate are currently airing that are in HD. Some internet TV guides give an idea of which shows are in HD, which Seven have confirmed as being true. If 7mate was once a standard definition feed, it definitely is not now.
HD shows on 7mate include: The Event, The Cape, Caprica, How I Met Your Mother, According to Jim, My Wife & Kids, Mighty Ships, Super Factories, The Universe, Scrubs, newer episodes of American Dad and The Amazing Race. Many of the movies are also in HD, but not all. In the coming week for example, two of the three movies are not in HD, while other weeks, all are in HD.
The Amazing Race is an interesting case as initially, Seven could only get the SD feed – which was a pity as this is the first season of the series to be shot in HD. Within a few episodes, the HD version had arrived. Some viewers commented on how much clearer it looked.
Looking at the next seven days as a guide, 7mate have a total of 17.5 prime time hours in HD programming. That would be more like 22 hours if all the movies were in HD – a similar figure to what GEM is doing at the moment.
Outside of prime time, however, there is little HD to be found. With old TV shows, and NBC Today making up most of the post midnight and day time schedule, 7mate’s total HD hours barely move from the prime time figure. That therefore puts GEM in front in total HD hours per week.
Those who have a TIVO would note that nothing on 7mate is designated as being HD. If you look at what TIVO says is a HD show, you’ll only find titles from ONE HD and GEM when there should also be titles from 7mate. This could go back to the idea that 7mate was a SD feed at one stage, and TIVO have not updated what they do on their EPG for the channel. TIVO are yet to respond or fix the issue – even though Seven are aware of it, and TIVO is closely related to Seven.
To conclude, 7mate is only second to GEM as a supplier of free to air HD content. ONE HD would be third – although that will change come May 8 and their new line up (ONE HD will be re-evaluated for HD content mid May, and its part in this series updated).
Next time: HD content on Pay TV.
Back to part 1 and index.