Ten Joins The Networks Neglecting HD Sport

It’s a subject we return to time and again here at Lifehacker: given how popular sport is, why won’t the networks make any effort to show high-definition broadcasts? Ten is the latest offender, dropping HD versions of its AFL broadcasts in favour of standard-definition matches on its main channels.

TV Tonight points out the switch, which sees HD broadcasts on ONE dumped in favour of showing other sports, probably reflects the fact that Ten is dropping AFL after this year, and hence has no particular interest in supporting the franchise. The network also points out that this gives viewers more choice. However, with the current allocation of just one HD channel to each network, that choice often won’t be HD; Seven, for instance, is ensuring live broadcasts of Wimbledon by simulcasting on 7Two, but hasn’t taken up the option of using 7Mate.

The whole HD issue isn’t likely to disappear until 2013, when digital switchover is complete and networks can start doing HD broadcasting on their main channels. In the meantime, Foxtel’s subscription department is presumably rubbing its hands together with glee.

TEN abandons AFL in HD [TV Tonight]


  • What proportion of the non-geek population has (and uses) HD hardware? Could it be the choice of SD over HD is a choice in favour of reaching a wider audience?

    • That I’m aware of, pretty much any flat panel TV with an intregrated digital tuner sold in Australia will have had the HD varient. SD seems to mainly be relegated to set-top boxes, and are marketed squarely at those who want to add digital functionality to a conventional CRT TV. I personally believe allowing SD set-top boxes to enter the market in Australia in the first place was a mistake.

      You do have a good point that broadcasting in HD will deny SD viewers of being able to watch the sport (which is why most HD sport broadcasts are simulcast in SD too) – and this is about the only positive fact on the decision to switch broadcasts to SD only.

      • Not all flat panel displays that were sold in Australia have HD tuners built in, many earlier version plasma TV’s didn’t have it built in. My parents for example bought an early model plasma(although some cheap brand) which didn”t have one built in, so it’s not just those that want to extend the life of there trusty CRT but those that don’t have a tuner built.

        • I’m well aware that some/most earlier flat panel TVs came with an analogue tuner only (I still have/use an early model Acer LCD TV with a HD set top box).

          Re-read what I wrote though; I stated that LCD/Plamas that DO have a digital tuner are almost always HD.

  • you say “the whole HD issue isn’t likely to disappear until 2013, when digital switchover is complete and networks CAN start doing HD broadcasting on their main channels.”

    I hope the government stipulates that TV networks MUST start doing HD broadcasting on their main channels.

    Watching the AFL on the weekend in terrible quality standard definition was painful.

    • They used to. Remember why 7HD, 9HD and TenHD were about? That was due to legislation. That was lifted a couple of years back, which is why the HD channels have become secondary tier 2 channels now.

      I somehow don’t see the decision being repealed the legislation brought back now that it has been lifted.

  • Sure the AFL wasn’t on OneHD, last Sat, but the Dutch MotoGP and European F1 qualifying was. I preferred the motorsport in HD. This was Perth btw

  • “…The whole HD issue isn’t likely to disappear until 2013, when digital switchover is complete and networks can start doing HD broadcasting on their main channels…”

    Call me pessimistic – but I don’t see the complete digital cutover making any difference. They’re still be the argument that many viewers are only using SD set-top box receivers, and would be alienated from watching HD sport and first tier broadcasting if the channels made their main channels HD.

    Let’s look at the facts for a second on the topic as to why we’re in the mess we are:
    – Viewers aren’t the customer; we’re the product being sold. Broadcasters are selling potential audience figures to advertisers. Without any viewer bargaining power (unless we tune out in mass exodus – and let’s face it, that isn’t going to happen) commercial networks will continue to only supply the minimum of service required to keep us tuned in.

    – Contractual rights to (live) sport broadcasting are often excusive, giving a monopoly on the content to the broadcaster in question. Use the NRL for example, yes FoxSports will broadcast NRL matches also broadcast on the Nine network, however these are delayed to occur after the Nine broadcast has been completed. Without an alternative, networks know they’re holding the Ace.

    – HD broadcasting requires additional bandwidth to broadcast. With a somewhat limited frequency made available as it is to jam the various channels into this is going to be difficult to make space for. Also keep in mind that Australia’s low population density works against us here. Lower quality picture with higher compression means less data to be transmit, and means the signal can be broadcast further from transmission towers. Increasing the bandwidth would likely in many cases require upgrades in equipment, and potentially in some cases – additional transmission towers. Where’s the business logic in that? Who will receive any return from the capital spent?

    Bluntly, if it wasn’t for the federal government in the first place, I would be very surprised if digital video broadcasts would exist in Australia if left to FreeTV Australia to initiate the switch themselves. It’s just a shame that the government has done such a piss weak job in setting the requirements on broadcasters to provide an adequate service.

  • Boo. Not an AFL fan but the abandoning of HD sport really does suck.

    Yesterday i watched the 2pm NRL game on FoxHD, then switched over to Nine for the 4pm game in SD. It looked attrocious and its terrible that we’ve gone backwards in availability of HD sport.

    • I’ve said this numerous times before, in the numerous post’s Gus’ has made regarding the whole SD vs HD sport war topic – and that is, the biggest enemy here isn’t strictly SD broadcasting, it’s the compression/lower bitrate used on the broadcast.

      If the broadcasters reduced the compression used on their SD broadcasts there would be a large noticeable improvement in the quality of the picture. Unfortunately, that’s not like to happen; due to the bandwidth limitations available among the current frequencies allowed, and the fact that as the bitrate of the video stream goes up, the broadcast distance from the transmission towers becomes shorter.
      Ironically due to this, we end up with HD broadcasts that arguably look worse than high quality SD broadcasts offered in other parts of the world.

      • Keep in mind too that if your TV is native resolution in full HD, then any SD broadcast is being up-scaled by your TV which can introduce more artifacts depending on the algorithm used.

        • While you’re technically correct (The BEST kind of correct, according to a certain bureaucrat), from what I understand in real world circumstances – the quality and compression of the video stream will play far greater influence on this than the up-scaling algorithm.

  • “In the meantime, Foxtel’s subscription department is presumably rubbing its hands together with glee.”

    Keeping in mind that while adding the sport packages to your Foxtel account will get you all the AFL matches live next year, you have to pay extra to get them in HD.

    Personally, I’d probably care more if my TV was FullHD. At 1366×768, I don’t know that I’d be noticing a difference.

  • Is Lachlan Murdoch working on behalf of Ten’s shareholders or for his family? His job at Ten seems to be to migrate viewers to Foxtel, where you pay to watch advertisements.

  • This will be controversial but here goes…

    I don’t think enough people really care for HD feeds. I don’t know if it costs extra to broadcast but why do it for a small audience base.

    I’ve always struggled to find the benefits of HD (but then I’m not the type who gets into blockbuster movies with all the special effects). What I enjoy is a good story and that doesn’t change based on the picture. The same applies to sport – the last time I compared a HD and SD sporting event I got the same score.

    Why have a special HD feed (which hasn’t proven to increase audience numbers) when I can use that bandwidth to run a different programme (which will most likely increase total audience numbers).

    Same argument applies to 3D.

    • Go into Harvey Norman and watch a blu-ray on a 1080p LCD TV, and you’ll soon see how sharp the picture *can* be on a HD feed. For HD enthusiasts, this can be alone a great reason to slash out on a top notch TV.

      Unfortunately, the arguments that hold true for the above video though, don’t for TV broadcasting. Firstly, HD TV broadcasts max out at 1080i (interlaced), not 1080p (progressive) as blu-rays are. For those who don’t know the lingo, interlacing is where every first and second line of pixels alternating refreshes – meaning that half the data is required for the same level of resolution, whilst still maintaining a smooth image. Immediately, this means that HD TV broadcast’s picture quality will be half that of its’ blu-ray counterpart.

      Further, blu-ray has the capacity to allow for a quite a high bit-rate – which means more data for every frame of video. As I’ve mentioned above, typically the bit-rate used for digital broadcasts in Australia is quite low. This means there’s less data to be transmit, which means broadcasts can reach further from the transmission towers, without having to upgrade to significantly stronger transmitters.

      And unfortunately, you’re dead right about “I don’t think enough people really care for HD feeds”. People typically are ignorant to the technical side of it, and in turn the actual true quality that could be achieved. Because of this, there isn’t much pressure on broadcasters to provide HD content, and instead they opt for more unique content with more ads and revenue.

      • Sam,

        whether people are ignorant to the technical side of it doesn’t count for much in my opinion. I still think the majority of people in Australia watch television at home to tune out and not to be blown away by picture quality.

        If we want to be wowed, we’ll go out of our way to watch something on the big screen… in my opinion.

        My 1080i 42 inch plasma is getting old in the tooth but it was (and probably still is) very highly regarded when it comes to downscaling, so the SD picture I get is pretty good quality.

        Unfortunately, we’re now being bombarded with screens made for the US market (which I believe has more HD) and therefore the picture quality for SD broadcasts is an afterthought. Maybe once my screen gives up the ghost and I’m forced to buy a 3D set that will do everything other than a good SD picture I might be more up in arms. Watch this space…

    • A little of column A, a little of column B…

      I spent a bit of time involved with video compression – so its a topic that I know well, and pisses me off seeing it get abused by broadcasters because viewers typically don’t know better.

  • I’m staggered at all these “I don’t see the need for HD” posts. Seriously!? With that retrograde attitude we would still be riding in carts, carrying around mobile phones the size of a brief case and sticking leeches on our sore bits.

    Yeah, be proud be Australian. Leading the world in technological progress in the same way that Kazakhstan leads the world in the use of mules for pulling broken down Lada cars down dirt roads.

    While other first world countries enjoy quality audio visual broadcasts on their expensive digital televisions we get the second rate slurry that the pathetic Aussie networks want to throw at us because we don’t demand quality and consistency from them. No wonder they are failing left and right. I would trust them to schedule a warm bath.

    • Xela, forgive me for being a techno-retard and having a different opinion. You’ve convinced me to put down my stone axe and fire sticks. I will now forever be known as a crusader for the bleeding edge regardless of what I get for it and regardless of what it costs.

      I will also be the purveyor of all ridiculously priced speaker cables because “they sound better”… or not.

      • I love it when people such as yourself try to make an opposing argument by going so far to the extreme. Your reply just sounds defensive when no-one’s really attacked you at all.

        Why in any kind of context to this post, would you need to become ‘a crusader for the bleeding edge regardless of… blah blah blah’. If Xela’s point was anything like what you said, you might actually be justified to ridicule it with an answer like that, as smarmy as it is. Pity it wasn’t.

        What the people that do care about HD want, isn’t really expensive and is certainly within the means of the broadcasters, without sacrificing anything for others that are either unaware, don’t care or are against progress.

        Technology evolves. Get used to it.

  • Well I just got a new TV with HD capability and, after years of ranting that I wouldn’t pay to watch adds, I’ve bitten the bullet and subscribed to
    Foxtel (with an IQ2 for add skipping of course). Am I alone in preferring HD reception to watching re-runs of Green Acres? How short sighted is this of commercial channels? Let’s face it, once someone takes up Foxtel, they’re unlikely to go back.

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