You get what you pay for

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - TIM MARTAIN

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.

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