Tag Archives: multi channeling

Channel 9 and Go99 or Go!99

Channel 9 is set to launch its 2nd free to air digital channel sometime later this year – most likely in August. The rumour mills suggest it will be called GO!99. Apparently, GO!99 has been registered by ch 9 as a trade mark, but that does not necessarily mean that will be its final name. Whether it is or not, is not really relevant. Of greater concern, is what exactly will be its content?
 
Channel 9 now lead the free to air networks as being the channel that has the most programming changes, as well as being the network least likely to show a series that they introduce in entirety at any time favouring quick program fixes and repeats in favour of running a series they started. At least channel 7 give their series a go, even if that means, they end up late at night or being held for a few months or so until they put them on.
 
Channel 7 is yet to announce plans for their second digital channel. Channel 10 has already done it with ONE HD although the regionals will not see it until July.
 
All that aside, one must be concerned as to what channel 9 will do with their extra channel. It was only announced yesterday that 9’s Tuesday night line up was to be changed most likely due to low ratings. This change is too late for their printed TV guides – the very guides that most of their loyal viewers will rely upon. As has been the case for numerous weeks this year, channel 9’s programming changes are last minute and never are in time for printed guides to reflect. While TV guides are now available on the internet and EPGs, no doubt the masses are picking them up from printed guides and will tune in (or out) accordingly. This, to me, is one of the reasons why their ratings are falling.
 
In my opinion, if this is the way they handle their main channel, then their second channel is going to be an even bigger nightmare to deal with. I wonder if it will be loaded with endless Underbellys’, 20-1’s, 10-1’s, even 50-1 they did once, not to mention two and a half men played to the point of overkill. It is supposedly slated as an entertainment channel but, if the lack of programming ability they are demonstrating on their main channel is anything to go by, why would anyone care about the second channel?
 
I always thought that a second SD channel would give a network the chance to experiment and show programs they normally would not on their main channel. The marketing opportunities are enormous. I mean, here is the chance to have themed nights like 10HD did with Sci Fi nights. Here is the chance to have movie nights, comedy nights, crime nights, drama nights, niche programming, majorly time shifted prime time segments and more (what I mean by time shifted prime time is that they repeat prime time after say 12.30am instead of infomercials or even during the day to give those people who do not fit into the working prime time norm (such as shift workers) a chance to see prime time TV without having to record it). 
 
The way channel 9 are heading at the moment, is that this 2nd channel will show little more than endless 20-1’s, Underbelly’s, 2.5 Men and other repeats little or no people care about. I mean, the only reason most of these shows rate is due to a lack of options rather than the fact people really care for them.
 
Channel 9 have the rights to so many shows, that it amazes me why they don’t put them on. Channel 7 and 10 give their shows a chance and follow through – even if late. But not 9. They axe shows never to be seen again except possibly on Foxtel a year or so later. Who remembers their Pushing Daisies ads? That one ended up W channel Foxtel, but 9 had rights to originally. OK – that show is a bit weird, but still, if they had the rights to it over Foxtel, it would do alot better than something like Bridezillas which 9 was showing even though it had already been on Foxtel.
 
I can’t wait to see the programming for the 2nd channel 9 – I’ll call it Go99 even though that is not really confirmed yet. Even if it is a channel of 9 repeats, it will at least give an option for those who do not have Foxtel. I just hope they have the sense to program it properly as a new channel that will not yet attract major ratings. I just hope it is better than 9HD – which was really only there for a few hours each night – in the sense that they do not cut and chop programs left, right and centre. I hope that they will see this channel as an opportunity to show programs that – for whatever reason – they do not show on their main channel – we all know they have the rights to so many shows. Yes, I am a fan of ER, and have already seen the finale through a friend in the US, but they could put ER on this channel. Not to mention, Survivor, Weeds, and others they have the rights to.
 
Lets hope that they do not deal with the 2nd channel the way they do with the main channel and that they use it to promote digital uptake in the sense that they make people see what they are missing out on. Sooner or later, the networks have to embrace digital and multichanelling rather than catering for those who don’t care and making sure that their TV shows are all available on analogue.

7 Behind 8 Ball of 9 and 10

Added: April 14th: There’s a romour going round, as reported on Tv Tonight, that 9’s 2nd SD channel will be called Go!99. That’s not yet official. Time will tell. I liked the idea os something like E9, 9 Plus or 9 Extra as it keeps some branding with channel 9. And the regionals would just substitute the “9” with WIN or NBN. Whereas, with “99”, they have to do something else – such as “88”. Or how about “86” – then we could have 86 and 99 working together like in “Get Smart”. We await more information.

While updating now, there is still no word from ch 7 about their 2nd SD channel – which is basically what the article below is about.

I found this quote in an article on whatsonthetube.net and thought I’d share it:

“The Seven Network has had success with its new channel with chief executive David Leckie saying, “The HD channel is getting some advertisers and viewers and will break even this year, but it is not the main game. The main game is the new standard definition channel. That will be exciting.”

The remark is made in reference to 7HD, which was up and running since Mid October 2007. The article, published on whatsonthetube.net March 10, 2008,  was about 9HD’s launch mid March 2008, and makes comment about the fact that the 2nd SD channels were allowed to be on air from Jan 1, 2009, and that 2009 would be exciting for TV.

As I write this article, there is still no word yet of ch 7’s plans for its 2nd SD channel. As we all know, ONE HD and its SD counterpart start full time at 7.30 Thur March 26 (now adjusted to 7pm in Melbourne due to the change to the AFL coverage). So that is channel 10 sorted for now.

And earlier this week, ch 9 announced its plans for an entertainment channel even though details were somewhat vague to say the least – with no definite confirmation – or even indication – of a launch date other than some time in the 2nd half of the year.

That just leaves channel 7. Given Leckie’s comment one year ago, you would have thought channel 7 would have been the first to launch its 2nd SD channel. No doubt they are more cashed up than the other networks, being the number one rating network of 2008. Or, maybe ch 7 has decided there was no need to address having a 2nd SD channel for that reason – no need to do anything extra to stay number one. With poor programming generally on ch 9 and ch 10 aiming for the younger demographics and therefore not winning overall ratings, that leaves ch 7 1st every week. Perhaps it is ch 7 waiting to see what 9 does and what success ONE HD has before making any commitments.

But why wait for what the others do? Why not go out on your own like ch 10 has. Even 9’s idea sounds like a free to air version of a cross between FOX8 and TV1 (in their own words), but, even though vague, at least there is some indication.

Still, with all the time these networks have had to get their proverbials together as far as digital multi channeling goes and the time and money they have spent on the FreeView campaign, there is no reason why in March 2009 ONE HD should be the only new commercial extra digital channel. It just continues to be the viewers who lose out time after time and none of them seem to be making any effort in clearing up the digital confusion.

Someone should step in and simplify and unify the process for all of Australia. Set a date for all channels to be up and running – metro and regional – and, as for FreeView, clean up the mess they have created and give the viewers what they want.

Who Will Be the First with Three Channels?

FreeView promises 15 channels based on each free to air broadcaster being allowed to air 2 standard definition (SD)  channels and 1 high definition (HD) channel. As it stands now, ABC has two unique SD channels – ABC1 and ABC2, with ABC HD yet to offer anything but a simulcast of ABC1. Same story with SBS, with SBS1 and SBS2 (this is what SBS news will become). Over at ch10, they now have Ten and ONE HD, with the 2nd SD channel airing the SD simulcast of ONE HD. That make ch10 the first commercial to offer a 2nd SD channel as well as the HD channel being different 24 hours a day. But, in all of these cases, its still only 2 channels.

So who will be the first to have a 3rd? Ch 9 has indicated that August is a likely date for the launch of their 2nd SD channel (which will not be called 9 GOLD!). When this channel starts, if 9 offered alternative HD programming at any time, and the 2 SD channels were also airing different programs, then that would put 9 as the first to offer 3 different programs at any given time. I personally do not see this happening. It is more likely that the HD breakaway programs would end up on 9SD2 (in the absence of a real name, I’ll keep on calling it 9SD2), and that 9HD would simulcast 9’s main channel especially as more and more of their prime time programs become available in HD.

Ten has made mention of a 3rd channel as well, but I suggest the outcome there would be subject to the success of ONE HD. If the sports genre is very successful for 10, you may see the channel currently known as OND SD broadcast a combination of sports and other shows. Some people think that 10 may opt for a music channel or something more youth oriented to capture a different part of the market. Whether ONE stays as a full time HD channel will depend on its ratings and HD TV penetration into the market.

Despite David Leckie of ch 7 over a year ago indicating that maulti channeling would be exciting, has yet to announce what ch 7 are doing as far as multi channeling is concerned. Ch 7 has offered more break away HD programming than any other channel (prior to ONE HD) but have (surprisingly) used it to show repeats of their own shows, whether in HD or not, and to show old black and white movies during the day not even in wide screen, let alone HD!

Only the ABC has real plans for a 3rd channel – ABC3 which is subject to funding at the next federal budget. There is also rumoured to be an ABC4 news channel on the cards, but unless they cut back the qulaity of the HD channel, it is difficult to see how 4 channels will fit in without being very low quality. I am of the understandting that they can, but quality is the concern.

I believe the focus should be on quality and not the number of channels. While the idea of having extra channels is great for variety and choice, it should not be what its all about. Now that everyone is buying large screen TVs, the HD channel should be the focus as the main channel. This is what they do in the US, and they promote all the shows as being in HD. Any show on the main channel that is available in HD, should be shown in HD on the HD channel. And when there are shows on the main channel not available in HD (like old repeats), only then should the HD channel do anything different to the main channel as well as the 2nd SD channel.

Alternative HD viewing should only occur if the programs on the main channel are not available in HD. Alternative HD viewing should be HD content. Not 1940’s movies or old repeats. Recent movies and documentaries are one idea. I have an HD TV and would much prefer having everything in HD than to have 3 different channels just for the sake of being able to say there are 3 channels. Already when I watch ch 10, I miss having the option of viewing in HD. And, yes, I can tell the difference on my TV! I used to hate some late night shows on 7 not being in HD due to 7HD being the breakaway channel. One example is 30 Rock – which doesn’t really have to be HD, but in HD it looks much better.

Which gets me back to FreeView. As I mentioned time and time again, the promotion of 15 channels is misleading. You can read more about that in other posts or by clicking FreeView in the tag cloud.

Ten to One HD

Lucky for me, last night was one of those nights I could receive the digital signal of ch 10 Sydney without any drop outs. Usually, where I am on the Central Coast, 10 Sydney is one FTA signal which I cannot always receive without drop outs rendering it unwatchable. This is despite the fact that all 8 FTA channels come from the same transmitter site (ABC, SBS, 7, 9, 10, Prime, NBN, SC10).

I tuned into ONE HD at 7.30 to view their 30 minute introduction even though I had already looked at the program and knew what was coming. Just in case there was a last minute miracle, I tuned over to SC10 HD to see if there was anything different there other than the scenery loop we are used to. The answer, of course, was no. SC10 HD continues to broadcast scenery. And seemingly will continue to do so until “mid year”.

As a person not really into sports myself, I probably won’t watch much on ONE HD but can see there will be an audience and a following. The programs on ONE HD currently are not that different to when FOX sports started in Australia 14 years ago. Over time, FOX sports gained ground, gained rights to more and more sports and has split itself over 5 channels in the process (3 SD sports channels, one HD fox sports channel and fox news). Perhaps, based on the Fox sports history, the future of ONE looks bright. A sports channel in a sports mad country really is not a bad idea! Until analogue finishes in 2013, ch 10 should consider showing ONE overnight instead of infomericals for the benefit of those still living in the analogue age.

And I will point out that ch 10, quite fittingly I thought, won the ratings last night convincingly. Even if ONE was only a small contribution to that win, I think it might be a sign of things to come. Congratulations to Ten for giving it a go. If you look at subscription TV ratings each week, sports events usually make up all of the top 10.

The downside, of course, is the fact that you can no longer see any program on ch 10 in HD. I almost forgot that myself when, at 9.30, I was about to chose whether to watch Life on Mars live on 10 or record it and watch Bill Maher on Comedy channel live. I thought – Life on Mars, can watch on HD… oh, hang on, that’d be ONE now… ok – record and watch later. Perhaps 10 could have made the 2nd SD channel the sports channels, with the HD as hybrid between the two, but it just does not have the same ring to it. Sport is one genre that is best seen in HD. The difference is quite substantial. This is no doubt, why on Foxtel, sports channels were the first to be available in HD, together with documentary channels (another genre that is best seen in HD).

Last night, on SC10, the channel 10 news which comes from Sydney spent 5 minutes covering the fact that ONE was starting that night. Viewers of the news were told that all they needed was either a digital TV or a digital set top box to receive ONE. And for ONE HD, the TV and set top box would have to able to receive HD signals. They told us that ONE HD could be seen on digital channel 1. There was absolutely no mention that ONE was not available in regional areas at this stage as well as the fact, that in regional Australia, there is no such channel as digital channel 1.

I wonder how many people in SC10’s viewing area – its northern NSW viewing area is a market about the same size as Adelaide covering over 1 million people – went out today and bought set top boxes as a result? Or finally decided that a new big screen TV with a digital receiver was the best way to spend some of their stimulus money? If SC10 cared about its viewers, not only would it have information out there – either on their web site (which looks like it is not kept up to date), in local papers, or on SC10 itself – relating to what they are doing with ONE, they would have put a disclaimer on the screen during the news or even a 5-10 second announcement stating that ONE will not currently be available in the SC10 viewing area but will be coming soon. It just shows the lack of respect for viewers they have. Maybe television is the lowest priority for Southern Cross, who never delivered 10HD in any case despite promising last year, it would be available “mid year” as well.

Since the announcement of ONE HD late last year, there has been plenty of time for both 10 and SC10 to come to some sort of arrangement. As I have previously mentioned, SC10 has shown some programs simulcast on the HD channel, with he ads replaced by the scenery. Since digital TV started, I am sure that the ch 10 capital city feed they receive contains the full digital bandwidth inc all SD channels and the HD channel. Hence ONE could be shown. But no, not SC10. Out of all the regionals, its programming is the most identically the same as its capital city counterpart just with an extra infomercial or two. Its not as if they have an identity to maintain or to lose. And, like in the cities, SC10 is a distant 3rd in the ratings after NBN and Prime.

All SC10 needs to do is to come clear and explain what the problem is. Explain what they are doing. Explain why, despite being an almost exact copy of capital city ch10, they continue not to offer the same services as far as multi channeling is concerned. It is simple communication. It would take one of the decision makers there less time to write out a quick press release explaining what is going on than it has for me to write this artical pleading for answers.

Come on, SC10, speak up. Tell us what is happening. Lets break out of this annoying code the free to air networks all seem to follow where they do not communicate with their viewers.

FreeView in My View 2

An article in Melbourne’s Herald Sun the other day suggested that LCD and Plasma TVs would be out of date as of May 1 when FreeView starts. On FreeViews’ own web site which, at the time of writing my previous article about FreeView last week stated, that there was no guarantee that all services and channels offered by FreeView would be able to be seen on equipment not branded as FreeView.

Now it says, and possibly as a result of the article: “If you already have an HD integrated TV …. FreeView will automatically become available to you…”.

To anyone who knows anything about Digital TV, that is obviously true and has always been true. And for the majority who don’t, it was very misleading.

As for the Herald Sun, the article refers to the fact that FreeView equipment will be MPEG-4 compliant, which the broadcasters will begin using at a date in the future, my guess would be 2013 when analogue is fully off and the bandwidth freed up could be used to transmit the old and the new signal at once like they are doing with their digital and analogue signals currently. I imagine, with the technology in most HD TVs now, it may be a matter of updating their firmware, but that time will tell.

Our big TVs will continue to work for some time yet, receiving all digital channels broadcasted. Lets hope FreeViews’ new marketing team will make sure that clearing up the confusion is first on their to-do-list. Changing that comment I refer to on their web site is at least a step in the right direction.

Freeview in my View

So Freeview promises to deliver 15 channels virtually for free, or at least without a subscription. Freeview will be offering a hard disk recorder allowing you to record 2 HD channels at once and watch another. But, according to the news so far I have read about FreeView, you will not be able to skip the ads! Honestly, what is the point of a hard disk recorder (PVR) if you cannot skip ads on commercial network shows? Since the early 80’s, if I have watched a show recorded from commercial TV, I fast forward the ads. If the FreeView box does not allow fast forwarding the ads, then who’s going to want it? This is one point that needs clarification. So far, FreeView is nothing more than an ad on TV, a fancy website that tells you little and a hot topic on TV blogs everywhere.

Its easy to see where the figure of 15 channels comes from – each of the 5 free to air networks now have the license to broadcast 1 HD channel and 2 SD channels, all 3 of which can have unique programming. 3 x 5 = 15 – easy! In fact, currently, each free to air broadcaster can actually broadcast up to 4 SD channels and 1 HD channel. Ch 7, Prime, ABC and SBS already do that, its just that all the additional channels are simulcasts, and licensing only allows 1 HD and 2 SD channels. 9 and 10 broadcast 1 HD and 2 SD channels – again – most the time they are simulcasts. And when analogue switches off completely in 2013, the extra bandwidth available means they should be able to offer even more channels or at least be able to offer say 3 HD channels. Time will tell on that one.

But the reality is somewhat different. To any normal person, the interpretation of 15 channels means 15 unique channels each containing different content for most of the day. It makes one believe that on each free to air network there will be an HD channel, and 2 SD channels broadcasting different content some time in 2009 when FreeView takes off.

Apart from the ABC which has plans for ABC3 (if funding is approved), it is extremely unlikely we’ll see any network provide 3 unique channels at once in the near future. Why would they? During the nightly prime time ratings dog fight, most shows are able to be seen in HD – as they should be for those of us with HD TVs. And for those who do not have access to HD, the same show has to be shown on an SD channel. And for those not yet on digital, it also has to appear on analogue. That leaves only the 2nd SD channel left to offer alternative programming. Then it is likely that the 2nd SD alternative would be programmed in such a way not to detract from the main programme being screened – by showing repeats or niche programming. Therefore, the result would be only 2 shows on at once on any free to air network.

We can already see an example of this: Ch 10, ONE HD and ONE SD. Even the FreeView web site lists ONE and ONE HD as separate channels. As ONE SD is nothing more than the SD simulcast of ONE HD, it cannot count as a separate channel. The reason is obvious – if you have an HD TV, you’d be watching ONE HD and never ONE SD. If you do not have an HD TV, you’d be watching ONE SD and cannot get ONE HD. ONE channel broadcasted over 2. This limits channel 10 to 2 channels, not 3. So straight away, the 15 channels FreeView promises begins to fall apart.

And then there’s the question of what 7 and 9 will do.Yes, at some stage, they’ll launch their 2nd SD channel, but the HD channel will still show prime time in HD and may possibly offer further unique programming late night as they already do. It would not surprise me, though, if alternative HD viewing disappears altogether, with the shows that used to be there seen on 2nd SD channel, and maybe some of those shown on HD at the same time – resulting in an HD channel showing content form both the main channel and the 2nd SD channel from time to time.

 Therefore the number of unique channels would work out as:

Ch 10 and ONE HD / ONE SD simulcast – 2 channels

Ch 9 SD and 9 SD2 with HD simulcasting 9 SD most of the time – 2 channels

Ch 7 SD and 7 SD2 with HD simulcasting 7 SD most of the time – 2 channels

ABC1, ABC2, ABC3 (let’s assume it goes ahead) – 3 channels (assuming ABC HD is ABC1 simulcast in HD)

SBS and SBS news (assuming SBS HD remains simulcast of SBS) – 2 channels

Total: 11 channels. Not 15.

In my opinion, this is extremely misleading and the claim of 15 channels should be reworded. I note now on the FreeView web site it says “up to 15 channels”. To me, the whole FreeView campaign is pointless and a waste of money – and why have it as a brand and a separate PVR? While I am a great advocate of extra channels, I don’t think it should the main priority. In the US, the focus is on HD content as opposed to extra channels each free to air network offers. All the major shows in the US are HD, and the daily and nightly talk shows make a big deal about being in HD. Here, there’s little emphasis on HD at all. While multi-channeling and FreeView seems to work well in the UK, lets keep in mind over there the population is 4 times larger than Australia, in a space smaller than one of our states – so its alot more viable.

I think the focus over the next few years should be digital take up overall without fancy brands and campaigns like FreeView. We should be making sure that all households have digital TV prior to the switch off in 2013 and legislating that all TVs must be sold with a digital tuner – like they have been doing in the US prior to their switch off in June. Until we are forced to buy only digital TVs there will never be adequate digital TV take up in Australia to warrant the networks bothering with alternative viewing knowing full well such viewing cannot be seen by all viewers. Then again, if consumers knew there was additional free content on digital television, they might switch  over. Bit of a catch 22.

Again, the lack of information offered about multi-channeling from the networks (other than 10) can only draw one to the conclusions above. We don’t know when 7 and 9 will start their 2nd SD channel and we don’t know if they will offer alternative HD viewing on top of that. Until some facts come out, the 15 channels of FreeView is really only 10 or 11.

And you can get these channels on ANY digital HD TV regardless of brand. Any set top box that can decode a HD channel will receive ALL digital channels. You do not need FreeView for this, regardless of what they say. FreeView is nothing more than a hard disk recorder with a twin HD tuner, like Tivo and many others you can buy off the shelf. Only difference would be how they interact with electronic program guides. Another subject for another time!

ONE HD 2 Weeks To Go

With the launch of ONE HD set to debut in capital cities on March 26, those who only receive regional television are still left wondering when the likes of Southern Cross Ten will carry the first commercial full time secondary channel.

So far, multi-channeling in regional areas has been left behind their capital city counterparts – not that there is much there either. Only Prime (that I know of) carries a simulcast of 7HD complete with the 7HD watermark but inserting their own ads. NBN broadcasts an HD channel, with no watermark but does not carry any of 9’s (very limited) alternative HD programming. Southern Cross 10 occasionally broadcast a Channel 10 show in HD but without the ads. The ad breaks, and pretty well most of all other times, SC10 HD broadcasts music and country scenery they call “HD demonstration”.

So the question remains – when will the regional networks pick up their game with digital multi-channeling? And when 7 and 9 launch their 2nd SD channels later this year, will the regionals be onboard immediately as well? Perhaps its additional expense, but surely it could be as simple as re-broadcasting the captial city version of the additonal channel, even if they leave the ads from the capital city feed. Two years ago, the Prime HD feed on the Central Coast and Newcastle came from Wollongong complete with ads catered for southern NSW and Victoria.

Sadly, it seems these days, there is a lack of willingness for television networks to keep their viewers up to date especially in relation to multi-channeling. We understand times are tough financially which may be a reason holding back networks with their multi-channeling plans, but a simple press release emailed to a few journalists, costing vitually nothing to write and send, would keep us up to date with what is happening. Surely they all do have an idea of what they are about to do.