Tag Archives: Foxtel

Go 99 Preview Update

In yet another example of just how hopeless the Channel 9 programming department when it comes to keeping viewers informed, as of this morning (Thursday April 30), there is no information in the yahoo TV guide online as to any of the planned 9HD day time break away next week. According to the advanced guide for 9HD posted on TV Tonight, extra 9HD beak away day time programming starts from this Sunday May 3.

It is not uncommon for the 9HD channel program guide not to be up to date in yahoo (perhaps this is because yahoo is tied up with channel 7), but you’d think channel 9 might go to a little extra effort to ensure there was adequate advertising and programming information out there in relation to this new programming. Otherwise, noone will know about it and day time viewers will most likely stumble upon the alternative shows when they try to watch Ellen and the View in HD only to see a movie on instead.

A quick check of the TV Guide that 9 MSN links to reveals the same – no alternative 9HD programming during the day. The only place I can find (admitedly I have not looked everywhere, but yahoo and ninemsn are two very high trffic locations so I would have assumed they keep there information up to date) this information in relation to 9HD is in TV Tonights’ advanced guides section – where you can see free to air TV guides as far as two weeks ahead. Usually, there is little point to look that far ahead into what channel 9 plan to show due to frequent programming changes, but this new 9HD programming is a big deal and a big step in the lead up to the new Go 99 channel later this year.

I might add, that I have not seen advertising for the programming either – not on the ninemsn web site or channel 9 itself. Maybe they are keeping it low key for now while they make sure there are no bugs, but surely, for the sake of their advertisers, they would want to attract viewers? Unless the ads will be free or endless 9 self promos (which would make the channel close to unbearable to watch).

At least there will be a day time alternative to talk, soapies, cooking and kids shows for now. If only they started the break away at 9am to provide an alternative to the morning shows. We don’t really need Kerry Ann and the mindless infomercials and content in HD – do we? 9am – 11 am are the worst 2 hours on commercial free to air TV, other than 2-4am of course. Before we had Foxtel, we would not even turn the TV on at our house until 11am for the news.

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FreeView in my View 4

So here comes the next round of Free View ads which will supposedly remind us of what we love about free to air TV. The same day we hear about channel 9’s new Tuesday night line up containing nothing but 2.5 Men, 20-1 and Underbelly, most of which are repeats. These Free view ads are a waste of time and no doubt take air space away from real advertisers selling real products.

Freeview are so delusional, that they call 7HD and 9HD separate channels. 9HD hardly has any break away programming and for the most part is the same as the main channel – so should not count, and 7HD is almost as bad but at least has more break away times.

And now the comment relating to more channels launching says within a year. We know channel 9 have announced their new channel, Ten is already doing ONE, SBS News has become SBS2, ABC has been given the go ahead for ABC3 (I knew thewy would) but channel 7 is still yet to announce anything.

Currently, I put the channel count at 8 – ABC, ABC2, Ten, One, 7, 9, SBS, SBS2. In regional area of northern NSW, it is 7 channels as there is no ONE yet. It will hopefully be on SC10 by July, about the same time it is rumoured Foxtel will get it for those who do not have cable. Go 99 and ABC3 will take it to 10 channels, and 7’s new channel when they announce it will be the 11th. And that will most likely be it, as I don’t see any of them then using the HD channel as a break away from the other 2 channels.

FreeView in My View 3

So there will be no FreeView EPG until the end of the year. Channel 9’s new channel will launch some time in August. ONE HD is already here for anyone who lives in the 5 capital cities. FreeView branded equipment will be on sale from May 1. And FreeView will launch more ads from April 26.

Exactly what do they hope to achieve with these ads? More confusion? More empty promises? Brand awareness? Confusing the already confused?

In my opinion, what really needs to happen is to have everything sorted out before they wast anymore time advertising and further confuse TV viewers Australia wide. Given that the EPG will not launch until the end of the year, how will the product work in any case? And there is still the cloud over the ad skipping capability on the FreeView branded PVR. I can understand why they would not want viewers to skip ads completely, so why not base the system on Foxtels’ IQ2 where you fast forward ads? If you see an ad that is interesting, you stop and take a look. Making people sit through ads when they are not watching live TV just won’t work. And being called FreeView will mean nothing.

Since the FreeView name was introduced late last year, saying “coming soon in 2009”, there has been little or no development to the system leading many to write it off as a pointless waste of time. This is now the stigma they are stuck with and will be very hard for them to work their way out of it. FreeView is seen as misleading and a series of empty promises. As I have written in other posts here, we will not see 15 unique Free to air channels any time soon.

Here’s what should happen now, in my opinion, if FreeView is going to revive itself:

1. Do not advertise at all until everything is in place for the product.

2. Set deadlines with manufacturers for FreeView branded equipment, and get them into the market place by a certain date.

3. Educate retailers about the system.

4. Deadline when the extra channels come. Ten has ONE HD already. 9’s 2nd channel is due in August, 7 is yet to announce, but should ideally do it about the same time as 9.

5. Get the EPG up in line with extra channels.

6. Include community TV (where available), and maybe even some of the channels in the 44 group in Sydney extending to other cities and areas – that gets more channels (Available frequencies may be an issue though).

7. Make sure that the regionals are on at the same time – unlike what happened with ONE HD, still yet to appear on SC10.

8. Publicise these dates in the media and on their web site. Keep the public informed. back up promises with actual content and detail. So far, one of the biggest problems with FreeView has been the lack of any actual content to back up their promises.

9. Any additonal services that will come with FreeView – such as on demand services – should be confirmed with launch dates as well during this time.

Once everything is in place, then will be the time to release FreeView as a complete system with 10 (say) channels including all other features it will have working rather than “coming soon”. That way, the consumer will know they are getting a complete product and not some expensive box with little or nothing over what they have now or can obtain much more cheaply.

Ads Not Adding Up

There seems to ba a new strategy applied to some shows on TV now. It goes something like this: Show starts. First ads appear 20 minutes into the show meaning the first 20 minutes are ad free. Then the remaining 5 ad breaks are roughly evenly placed for the remaining 40 minutes – meaning you have a 3 or even 4 minute ad break occurring every 8 minutes. The net result is that it seems there is as much time dedicated to ads in these 40 minutes as there is to the show itself.

I gave “Pushing Daisies” a go on the W channel last week. I thought they may have arranged their ads this way because it was a new show. But, I noticed this advertising pattern seem sot be the norm on a number of shows. This can be painful if you are watching a show live (thankfully, I hardly ever watch live). The first 20 minutes is obviously fine but the rest of the show ads dominate. Channel 7 and 9 also run this ad strategy for A Current Affair and Today Tonight – no ads for 2o minutes, then 3 ad breaks before the shows finish at 7.05.

No doubt, the reason for having no ads in the first 20 minutes is to keep viewers tuned in and not flicking over to other shows in an increasingly competitive environment. But then you get into the second half of the show and start wondering why there are so many ads. If you have recorded the show, it seems you have just put the remote down from the previous ad break before having to pick it up again for the next. I think evenly distributed ads are fairer.

And while we are talking about ads on the W channel, anyone who watches Jeopardy, 7pm Mon-Fri, would notice the ads are almost twice as loud in volume as the show itself. When watching Jeopardy, my volume output is at about 60, but for the ads, I have to turn down to about 40 to make them appear at equal volume to the show. Having ads that are louder than the show is nothing new, it is just that in the case of Jeopardy the show is so quiet compared to the ads. There was a time when ads on 7HD were much quieter than the show they were airing – which was refreshing to see.

Another problem with Foxtel shows and ads is that the ad breaks appear excessive in order to make a show go for one hour. Most shows without ads are just 40 minutes. That means there is 20 minutes to fill in with ads. For the most part, advertising on Foxtel channels is not as attractive as on free to air channels due to lower audience. That means, that during most shows, there are not enough ads to fill 20 minutes in an hour. The result is countless self promotion ads both for the channel you are watching as well as others. Again, best not to watch live if you have a recorder.

In my opinion, they should reduce the time allocated to ads on some of their channels and maybe have shows starting at odd times. They’d get more shows in and possibly drive up the quality of the ads that do end up there as there would be less time to show ads.

Channel Tens’ Broken Promise

I always thought, that the network that puts in place a time slot guarantee, would gain respect from their viewers and thus, hopefully, ratings. That is, the network that promises a show will be on at the same time very week, on time, and not repeated for a set period of time – say 12 or 13 weeks.

Back in January, prior to the current ratings period beginning, ch 10 promised exactly that – with House. They promised that the show would run 12 weeks without repeats or interruption. This morning, as reported by TV Tonight, I read that next weeks’ episode of House will be a repeat, and that the episode that would have been on next week, will be aired one week later – when ratings return.

Channel 10 have made the promise of showing House for 12 weeks without repeats or interruption. They would have done so knowing full well that this period would carry through the Easter non-ratings period. It seems that they have decided to withhold what apparently will be a good episode purely for the sake of putting it on during the ratings season so it can count towards there ratings share for the year.  

If you make this sort of promise, you need to stick to it. Ratings or not. Its not like House is a top rating show in any case. Last week, it scored about 800,000 viewers – which is about where it sits usually. Now that the promise is broken, they can no longer use it in their advertising to promote a show. Noone is going to trust it now.

There goes a good idea, from the only network that seems to be showing some respect for their viewers most of the time. Unlike 7 and 9, 10 are the only network to update their EPG to reflect the time that shows really start as opposed to what they are advertised for. If your EPG for 10 says 8.33, then thats when the show starts – usually within a few seconds. On ch 7 and 9, if it says 8.30, its more likely 8.35. And later in the night, 11.30 means as early as 11.20. 30 Rock on 7 is a classic example. I can get the whole episode of 30 Rock record by using the “R+20” button on the show before 30 Rock (usually Boston Legal; R+20 on Foxtel IQ2 allows you to add 20 minutes to the end of a recording) as opposed to actually setting it to record 30 Rock itself.

Channel 10 were onto a good thing here. Now its lost. Trust is gone. And all for the sake of this absurdity of non-ratings period where you still have full ratings reports, but because it does not count to the networks’ win for the year, they don’t care what they do. We the viewers always lose out.

Non Ratings – No Point

If you have seen the ratings reports for this week, you would notice there are alot of people watching TV at the moment having to settle for lower quality viewing, endless repeats and movies being played for there umpteenth time. The fact that a repeat episode of NCIS on Ten can grab 1.5 mil is testimony to how many viewers there are out there basically settling on what ever is on the small screen, even if a repeat. NCIS is very popular, new episodes do very well. Repeats of the show do better than repeats of Underbelly.

I still don’t get why we need to have so called non-ratings periods. There is still a daily report as to what everyone with people meters were watching, numbers are still counted, ads are still sold based on these numbers, only the viewer loses out by having second rate programming. I see no reason why ratings cannot continue all the time. Over summer and Easter.

The only beneficiaries out of this non-ratings madness is subscription TV and DVD rentals. And, of course, downloads as well. This week is not even school holidays (in NSW). 7 news on Monday night got 1.7 mil! Yet after 8.30, no one show could do better than about a million. All these people go somewhere, don’t they? And they are not going out – noone has the money for that now.

All that non-ratings is doing is turning people away from free to air TV and towards subscription TV, legal and illegal downloads and back to either hiring DVDs or watching ones they already own. At our place, free to air viewing has reduced to almost nothing other than the news and a few shows that have not gone off or into repeats such as Life on Mars and 60 minutes. Our usual Foxtel shows are still on, so those programs still fill up some time, but the gap left by absent free to air programs is filled by watching DVDs. I am sure this is a familiar scenario to some people.

 I seriously believe that this is a concept that needs to be reviewed, especially as more and more people turn away from free to air TV. With very fast internet coming within the next 10 years, free to air TV needs to re-invent iteself to continue to exist. Providing poor quality viewing, chopping and changing shows, having periods of time that they air even worse shows, and taking too long to get new shows on will kill them. No amount of extra channels under any name whether it be FreeView or otherwsie will help. Internet will be the future, and good on our government for moving on it.

ONE HD on SC10 Soon

Although I am yet to see one myself, I have been told by a few people now that SC10 Newcastle are advertising that ONE HD is coming soon to SC10. I am happy to hear that, as that would put some confusion to rest, but still don’t know why they would not have done that earlier.

It is interesting to read about the trouble some people on Newcastle are going to to get ONE HD. I found a forum with a number of posts from people in various parts of Newcastle who are already watching ONE HD or are trying to get it. From Newcastle, they have the choice to either trying to receive their TV direct from Sydney or to pick up UHF re-transmissions of Sydney TV from the Central Coast. You can read one of the forums here.

Depending on weather conditions, sometimes you can receive distant TV stations, but not on a full time basis. I remember, back in the early-mid 80’s, when I lived in Sydney, we would regularly receive WIN-4 from Wollongong as well as NBN-3 from Newcastle on a fine summer afternoon. The phenomenon is known in ametuer radio circles as “skip” where a signal from a distant transmitter literally “skips” or bounces off the ionosphere (an atmospheric layer) allowing it to travel further as the signal generally can travel in without much loss. The signal received would sometimes flow in and out – changing in strength – but was definitely watchable.

There was one day in particular where all 12 analogue channels were filled (except for ch 5, as this frequency is also used for FM radio). At the time, we had SBS on ch 0. A regional ABC filled ch 1. 2 was ABC-Sydney. 3 was NBN Newcastle. 4 was WIN-Wollongong, 5A was ABC probably from Newcastle, 6 was from Orange I think, 7 Sydney, 8 was NEN from memory from Taree, 9 and 10 Sydney, and 11 NRN-Coffs Harbour. On that day, I was able to watch Neighbours (yes, I watched it back then) at 5.30 on NRN rather than waiting to see it at 7pm on 10 (in 1988, Neighbours was on at 7pm).

Now, in the digital age, you could not have this happen in Sydney anymore as channels 6,8 and 11 are used as the digital components for channels 7,9 and 10 respectively. However, out in the country, the reverse could be true. You may be able to receive Sydney TV when atmospheric conditions are right and “skip” happens on a fine Summers’ afternoon. Which means, you may be able to catch glimpses of ONE HD outside of the city.

You would to make sure you have a VHF TV aerial, and have to re-tune your digital receiver when the conditions are right. If you are lucky, you’ll get the Sydney (or other capital city channels) but only briefly. Obviously you could not rely on this happening regularly. Also, fluctuating signal strength may mean that digital signal will drop out from time to time.

Enough reminiscing of the days of being able to flick through TV channels to see what was there. With most of them on UHF now in any case, chances of seeing distant channels are much lower. Furthermore, with the regionals being much the same as the city channels (other than digital channels and break away programming) there is little point going to any effort in any case.

I had read, that one possible reason why ONE HD is not on SC10 yet is because they are putting together a new digital facility in Canberra, and it is not until the middle of the year they will have the facility fully functional. With 10 HD breakaway programming running since late 2007, they have had plenty of time to prepare for the expansion of multichanneling. Apparently, this new facility will pretty much control all of SC10’s coverage area including dealing with insertion of local ads to feed to numerous different areas.

There is also a rumour, that I cannot seem to be able to confirm anywhere, that ONE HD and/or ONE SD will be broadcast through Foxtel from July. Sounds like, in the middle of this year, there will be alot of action as far as multi channeling is concerned.