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  • Owen

    ASO can broadcast and SBS can receive and rebroadcast the Tour de France from the back of a motorbike in HD from the middle of France to my living room in Brisbane, Australia but Channel 9 can’t show me an NRL game in HD from Suncorp Stadium 20 minutes up the road from where I live…

    • Dave

      First of all, the Tour is not in HD on SBS. Unless they have made a major change since I was last able to analyse the SBSHD stream last year, the Tour on SBSHD is just a copy of the exact same SD stream seen on SBS1. I’m pretty confident they haven’t made that change, if they did they would have shouted it from the rooftops in their Tour coverage press release – which they didn’t.

      The second thing is that there’s a lot more to quality than the number of pixels, a good SD broadcast is far better than a shoddy HD broadcast. The quirky MPEG-2 format used for FTA TV in Australia doesn’t allow the bitrate for HD sport to be done well, that’s why the networks are pushing for ACMA to allow MPEG-4 (provides higher quality at lower bitrates) to be unlocked here.

      As for why SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten are not using the HD capabilities they have for live sport, there are two reasons:

      1. Money. HD sport costs a whole lot more but doesn’t bring in any extra ratings – as Ten/ONE found out to their detriment when they experimented with running the AFL Finals Series in HD for a couple of years.

      2. Monopolies. In the case of the three Nine games of NRL each week and the Tour, Nine and SBS have these broadcasts locked down with no competition allowed. Until the ACCC does their job and makes those anti-competitive broadcast agreements illegal, fans have no option to take their business to a competitor offering a premium product (Foxtel is forced to black out the Eurosport Tour coverage) and so the networks have no incentive to improve their product because the only other option is to not watch it. This is also why SBS don’t use their own commentary team for the Tour, they have no incentive to make that investment when the extra money could be spent on other programming.

      Cycling and NRL only have this monopoly problem because they are small sports. AFL, F1, V8SC, cricket, soccer and the Olympics all have a two-tier broadcasting setup in Australia where a FTA network has basic coverage while the dedicated fan can put their hand in their pocket to get the full package with better coverage and fewer ads.

      • Owen

        I suppose we need to define what HD is – I’m not talking about 1080p, I’m talking about 1080i. That (in this country) is an HD resolution for television broadcast. The SBS HD channel during TdF live coverage averages about 10Mbit/sec bitrate, which is about as high as I’ve seen any other HD broadcast (e.g. F1 on ONE HD, back in the day) in Brisbane. If that doesn’t make it “HD” enough for you due to low bitrate, then, fine, you are welcome to your opinion (and I wouldn’t disagree with you) – but for the sake of discussion, we can at least agree that a 10Mbit 1080i broadcast stream is “HD enough” compared to the 4-6Mbit 576i we get on all the other digital channels.

        1. I don’t understand your point here. The technology is already paid for. All the channels already have HD broadcast capability. What costs them is an apparent lower viewership on the HD channels. But you know what? The HD channels probably have lower viewership because most of the time they’re showing replays of black and white movies from the 50s. Why can’t all the major players simply swap their primetime programming onto the HD channel and put all the old movies and kids shows on the SD channel?

        2. Who are Phil and Paul employed by, if not the SBS? Wikipedia says ITV, NBC and SBS carry their commentary. Are they paid by all three stations or by one or none? :-) As for the rest: free-to-air TV has a special place in this country, and swapping one monopoly for another (Foxtel) is not the solution. My personal opinion is that I would not care if both formats were switched off tomorrow and we moved to an IPTV based solution.

        Also, I find it laughable that you consider NRL to be a “small sport” but then go on to talk about V8SC (which as a fan of the sport, I do not consider it to be comparable to any football code in this country at all) alongside AFL etc. I suppose you are probably from Melbourne? I’m willing to accept your claim if there are viewership numbers to back it up, but I won’t accept your claim if you are merely experiencing from a similar exposure bias toward AFL that I experience toward NRL owing to our respective home-towns.

        • Dave

          If it really has been upgraded to 1080i this year instead of just carrying the SD576 feed as SBSHD did last year then that is good news, though using the same bandwidth for a better quality 720p stream would probably be better.

          1. Two reasons:
          a) The anti-siphoning rules – Nine cannot premiere NRL matches on their HD multichannel (GEM) unless it is a simulcast of what is on the primary channel. Simulcasts don’t make money (because the league fans will still watch it on 9 if it’s not on GEM) so GEM carries other programming which can appeal to other people.
          b) The equipment on the network’s end is a sunk cost, but the satellite bandwidth (from the OB van at Suncorp back to Nine in Sydney) is not. Even if there was money to be made from a HD simulcast, there would still be the extra costs.

          2. Phil, Paul and Matt are paid for by ASO, the race organisers, to produce an English world feed. Phil and Paul are paid by the SA Government for the same purpose during the Tour Down Under, because the UCI insists on an English world feed as a contractual condition for non-European WorldTour races.

          Of all the English language broadcasters in the world carrying the Tour de France, only Eurosport choose to take a clean feed (ambient audio only) and employ their own commentators.

          3. Not arguing for a Foxtel monopoly, but competition. In terms of the Tour de France, a good deal would be to add it to the anti-siphoning list for a minimum of one hour of live programming per day, but also lift the Eurosport blackout to allow competition along the lines of the AFL or F1 where you can get some coverage on Seven or Ten and the full premium package on Fox Sports.
          I agree that the internet will be the long-term way forward – but it doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to be viable.

          4. Not in Melbourne.
          NRL is a small sport in terms of being managed as a small sport by small men with small ambitions who think (word used loosely) it’s remotely okay for their flagship Friday night game to air at 10:30pm after the finish of Ice Station Zebra in markets outside their home town. The AFL supervises their broadcasters much more closely than that.
          V8SC is certainly a smaller sport in terms of viewing numbers, but it is managed as a big sport.


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