Five Channels Are Not Enough
Workers Online - Labor Council of Australia)
Foxtel worth it for the sport? That depends on what
you call sport, reports Peter Moss.
I hooked up to pay tv in June - after years of resisting
the lure - I was behaving just like the predictable
consumer I like to deny I am.
Foxtel marketers could have checked off my age, my
income, my family situation, my interests and laid
short odds about closing the deal. And they would
have been dead right about the final trigger that
overcame my ideological resistance - the promise of
saturation coverage of my favourite sport.
did not welcome the Murdoch/Packer takeover of AFL
coverage which was announced earlier this year. But
that was the event that delivered me to Foxtel, even
though AFL coverage will not kick off until 2002.
almost three months into our contract, could I recommend
Foxtel, purely for the sport? The answer depends on
what you call sport.
Britain the dominance of soccer as a national sport
- across regions, cultures and ages - guaranteed Murdoch
success in pay tv from the day he bought exclusive
rights to the Premier League.
Australia has no equivalent. Australian rules football
is the strongest winter sport, but large and important
groups of fans prefer any of three competing codes.
And cricket might be our biggest summer game - despite
the indifference of almost anyone who didn't grow
up playing it - but no pay tv provider has been able
to win consistent dominance in cricket coverage. When
Australia toured India, Foxtel had the rights. The
Ashes tour is on Optus.
sport media in Australia - like Channel Nine's now
defunct Wide World of Sports or the magazine Inside
Sport - have limited appeal because there is a limited
audience for general sport. Archetypal events like
the Olympics aside, the large majority of fans are
interested only in their own specific sports.
can check out Foxtel schedules on the internet and
see how much, if any, of the coverage on the two general
sport channels coincides with your interests. If rugby
league, motorsport, golf, boxing and wrestling excite
you, then you will like the look of Foxtel in 2001.
My preferences run to AFL, tennis, cricket and the
odd bit of horse racing. (Though I admit an embarrassing
attraction to American wrestling, when stumbled upon.)
current AFL coverage is pathetic. They produce just
one 30 minute program per week based around team selection
on Thursday nights. Chaired by the talentless Steve
Quartermaine, the panel's only bright light is rising
coach Brian Royal.
year, Foxtel will become, with free-to-air Channels
Nine and Ten, the official AFL broadcaster, showing
three games live per week and the rest as replays.
But there's more - a dedicated Foxtel channel will
show nothing but AFL 24 hours per day all year round.
The announcement did not make clear whether subscribers
would be forced to pay extra to watch AFL, but my
bet is that is exactly the plan. And with that we
can expect a big influx of talent and resources.
get my money.
here's something to keep in mind next time you see
the pay tv operators lobbying for a culling of the
anti-siphoning list. When pay tv wins the rights to
live coverage of an event, they often won't show it
live in deference to the needs of free-to-air channels,
and that applies even when the free-to-air broadcaster
is not providing live coverage. The worst example
I've come across is Foxtel's plans for Friday night
AFL coverage from 2002. Channel Nine in Sydney and
Brisbane will show a delayed replay of Friday night
games from 11pm or later - a classic case where pay
tv could have filled the gap, as Optus has until this
year. But Foxtel will not broadcast the Friday games
live because this would reduce the audience for Nine's
seems to have the tennis locked up. Since June I've
enjoyed the French Open and Wimbledon - and the US
Open starts at the end of this month. Live coverage
with few advertisements and less bullshit from the
commentators make Foxtel's tennis coverage a winner.
plenty of boxing on Foxtel - but if you want to watch
Mundine or Tzuyu, it's overpriced pay-per-view. The
regular coverage provides ammunition to those who
would outlaw the sport - not on the grounds of safety,
but of taste. The revolting sleaze of Jeff Fenech
is omnipresent. The commentators build up c-grade
Australian fighters as they pummel a seemingly endless
line of desperate Philippinos who you imagine would
never be allowed an upset.
might be argued that American professional wrestling
is officially no longer a sport since the promoters
admitted the events are 100% staged. But wrestling
remains the most popular sport among young US males
and it's not hard to see why. As a child I was transfixed
by Australia's World Championship Wrestling and its
villains Tiger Singh and Killer Kowalski and the obese
Haystacks Calhoun. Racing home from playing rugby
league for Marist Brothers, I spent every Saturday
for years watching grudge matches where the fighters
might be tied together by a nine-foot leather strap
and locked in a cage until one pleaded for mercy.
Foxtel's wrestling coverage comprising Smackdown,
Metal and Raw is War might have bigger budgets and
more glamour, but it's the same gig.
there's Foxtel's Sky Racing channel, which broadcasts
all TAB races with a brief betting update prior to
each event. That's a big plus for punters who can't
or won't spend their Saturday afternoons hanging around
the local TAB.
course, Foxtel has plenty of non-sport channels -
about 30. It's true they broadcast 90% crap, but the
remaining 10% still leaves you with a lot more choice
than free-to-air offers. The movies are the biggest
winner at our place - this Saturday we can watch uninterrupted
Hitchcock's Rear Window and Family Plot, followed
by Vadim's Barbarella.
tv is a bit like a mobile phone. You can get by without
it for years, but once you sign up you're hooked for
Moss is a Director of Lodestar Communications