You get what you pay for
THANKS to some fairly traumatic years at high school, I have an enduring sportphobia that often results in people labelling me ‘‘ un- Australian’’.
But even I enjoyed the Olympics. And why did I enjoy it so much? Because I didn’t watch it on WIN. I’m one of the fortunate ones who have been able to watch the Games on the eight dedicated Foxtel channels, rather than being a slave to the tunnel- visioned programming decisions of Channel 9.
There were rarely more than eight events running simultaneously in London, which means Foxtel’s eight channels ( provided free- of- charge this year to most subscribers) have generally been able to provide live coverage of whatever happens to be going on at any given time.
This means I have been able to watch the two sports I actually understand and enjoy, sailing and rowing, live and in full instead of on- delay- and- only- if- we- winsomething on WIN.
And I’ve been able to expose myself to other sports that we generally only get to see during an Olympic Games.
One day I watched a few hours of fencing, and I’ve also become rather more well- versed in weightlifting.
Meanwhile, for the whole first week, WIN slavishly saturated its feed with swimming when it was live and swimming replays when it wasn’t, occasionally dropping in whatever other nonswimming- thing it could find when everything else was exhausted.
One morning, while a nail- biting game of beach volleyball between Australia and the Czech Republic was under way live on pay- TV, WIN was showing swimming highlights, replays of swimming medal presentations and an interview with Stephanie Rice about not winning anything.
And WIN’s replay of the opening ceremony was so chock- full of ad breaks as to be almost unwatchable, and that’s to say nothing of the fact they cut out countries from N to R during the parade, much to the annoyance of my Polish wife.
It’s worth remembering that Australia is a multicultural country and there are plenty of people of Italian, British, Irish, Slovenian, Kenyan, Russian and a hundred other ethnic groups who are interested in seeing competitors from their homelands as well as the Aussies.
It’s not all Nine’s fault, of course. With one main channel and two digital multis ( GO! and GEM), the network could easily cover a better spread of events just by using its three channels to show three different feeds, but anti- siphoning rules mean they have to show the same content on all channels so no analogue free- to- air viewers are disadvantaged.
Considering the penetration of digital TV these days, that consideration is now pretty irrelevant, but the rules are the rules and Nine is bound by them.
Nonetheless, Nine is left in the unfortunate position of effectively having only one channel available, so must pick the events for broadcast very carefully.
The eight- dedicated- channel model has certainly worked for Foxtel, recording a peak national audience of 1.27 million on the evening of July 29, the highest recorded audience for anything on Foxtel since the service launched 17 years ago.
On that same night, the Nine network recorded a national audience of 3.19 million. Its nightly total audience share figures have hovered around the 22- 24 per cent mark, placing the pay- TV service ahead of free- to- air channels Seven and Ten and lagging only behind the main Olympic carrier, Nine.
As top- notch as Foxtel’s Olympic coverage has been, it’s a shame you need to be paying for a pay- TV subscription in order to enjoy anything resembling adequate coverage.