Sport on Digital TV

I’m not sure when the rest of the world stopped doing delayed coverage of sporting events but Australian free to air TV networks seem to be very reluctant to give it up. Then they have the temerity to ask sports fans to ‘Keep Sport Free.’ Hmmm, that slogan really should be changed to ‘Keep Sport Free so we can delay it, drag it out, piss you off and maximise our advertising returns’ Catchy!

Delayed coverage is an issue with Federal government anti-siphoning laws – laws which guarantee certain culturally significant/iconic sporting events are on free to air TV. As part of these laws the networks are not allowed to show events on the anti-siphoning list on their digital channel before it has been shown on their main channel.

However instances of the anti-siphoning laws being relaxed, and sport being shown first time on digital channels are commonplace.

SBS was allowed to show one of the final group stage games of the 2010 World Cup on SBS2. The final two games in each group are played simultaneously so this was a victory for live coverage and common sense over delayed coverage only.

Nine’s coverage of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand was abysmal until the quarter final stage when they covered matches on GEM to avoid time zone issues that saw matches starting as the 6:00pm News began on Channel Nine. Hats off to Nine for this common sense approach.

One of the most irritating things for cricket fans – missing play as Nine went to News and ACA – is now a thing of the past as GEM carries the cricket while Nine is at the News. Great for cricket followers and I’m very happy that cricket will no longer be lost due to important stories about dodgy washing machine repair men making our kids fat, but why did it take until the third test of the summer for this to happen? Nine blamed delays in getting approval for changing the anti-siphoning laws.

I was convinced when I heard about digital TV it must have been invented by a League or AFL fan living interstate. Finally long suffering Rugby League fans in Victoria will get the 2 x NRL Friday Night Football games on GEM at the same time they are broadcast in NSW & QLD. One live at 7:30pm, one on delay at 9:30pm. Then if you missed any of that thanks to the anti-siphoning laws you can watch both games again on Nine from 11:30pm – Brilliant!

So in 2012, given this list of examples of the laws being relaxed, it’s time for the anti-siphoning laws restriction on first time sport on digital channels to be removed. If you are sports fan, digital tv is finally becoming the friend it should have been from the moment it was introduced. And if you don’t have digital tv I would like to know which rock you have been living under.

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Ross Slater

Blogging about the important things - AFL and cricket

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