Ask LH: Why Isn’t The State Of Origin In HD?

Ask LH: Why Isn’t The State Of Origin In HD?

Dear Lifehacker, Looking at the TV guide, I see that once again there is no high-definition (HD) broadcast for the State of Origin on Channel Nine. I will again have no other option but to watch a standard definition (SD) presentation of the game on my HD-ready plasma TV. What I can’t understand is why?

Maybe I am being petty but when compared to the HD, SD it is like chalk and cheese, especially when you’re watching on anything bigger then 26 inches. In 2010, Channel Nine broadcast the game in HD and in 3D. Three years on, when a greater number of persons have made the switch to digital and are likely to have a HD-ready TV, Channel Nine is broadcasting Origin on its SD channel while repeats of Customs and RPA occupy its HD channel, GEM. It is disappointing and makes no sense at all. What gives? Thanks, Original Sinner

Picture: James Tamou/Getty Images Sport

Dear OS,

The brutal and simple truth is that Nine isn’t broadcasting in HD because it doesn’t have to, and because not doing so will make it more money. Origin is consistently one of the highest-rating broadcasts of the year (the 2012 matches ranked #9, #12 and #14 overall), so it doesn’t really require additional sweeteners to entice viewers. Under the current NRL rights deal signed last year, Origin is also one of the few NRL games which Nine can broadcast live while Foxtel can’t. So it will run live on Nine and its affiliates in virtually every state (save WA where it will run live on GEM to avoid interfering with the equally lucrative 6pm news slot on the main channel).

Until digital switchover is completed, Nine is obliged to show Origin on its regular SD channel because it’s on the anti-siphoning list which the government uses to “protect” major sporting events. Nine could choose to simulcast it on GEM as well, but save for that one-off experiment in 2010, it hasn’t done so. The commercial logic is simple: the overall ratings aren’t going to be higher by doing so, and showing something different on GEM will give it a chance to charge more for advertising to a different audience. There may not be many people who want to watch RPA rather than Origin, but there will be some.

Is there a long-term risk in doing that, by alienating sports fans through substandard treatment? Possibly, but Nine knows that until 2017, NRL enthusiasts who want to watch Origin won’t have any other choice. Post 2014, Nine won’t be obligated to transmit on SD, since the whole country will be on digital, and its strategy could change. But details on how that changeover will work are still scarce, and with the TV industry overall attracting smaller audiences and fewer advertising dollars, HD simulcasts may not be a major selling point.

For 2013, you’ll have to remain firmly in an SD Origin universe — annoying, but that’s how it is. Nine is offering enhanced interaction through its Jump-In TV app, including slow-motion replays and multiple camera angles. That’s an interesting new development, but the image quality will, we imagine, be sub-SD for that footage.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • A majority of the meat heads who watch this game wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway. They’re pretty Standard Definition people when it comes to watching Rugby League – as soon as kick off commences, queue full retard.

    This will float well.

    • You are entitled to your opinions regarding rugby league fans. (I’m not one in particular.)
      However…flagging your own comments as inflammatory doesn’t make you clever. See if you can guess what it DOES make you though.

      • Well, considering that I didn’t do that (you can’t flag your own comments) – you may have to try another line.

          • It’s more to acknowledge that I realise what I’m saying is going to piss people off, and not be completely ignorant about it – but at the same time indicate that I don’t particularly care if my opinion is unpopular.

            Just posting a good old sarcastic bash that Lifehacker commenters (hell, Internet users in general) are so accustomed to. Down vote and move along if you’re not happy.

  • I was looking forward to watching footballers piss on the field and flop their balls around afterwards in HD whilst eating dinner then having all the news shows play it over and over again the next morning while I’m eating breakfast… Bummer.

      • Bloody hell, really? I thought the signal got turned off the other week. Seems like it gets pushed back and back and back…

        • Certain areas already have analog switched off (mine was back in November) so it may have been turned off in your area, but it’s done in stages and the last of the switch-offs will be done by the end of the year.

          • yep, Remote central and eastern australia and Melbourne are the last to switch off on December 10

  • I am lead to believe that the game won’t look that much better in HD anyway due to bandwidth limitations, and how Channel 9 try to squeeze Nine, Go, GEM, Extra and Extra 2 into the right amount of bandwidth for one SD and one HD. So the compression is awful on every channel but regular Nine.

    • I dont understand why is there a need for TWO extra channels! what bone head thought that was a good idea in the first place?

      • That’s because Nein have only one thing in mind and that is making money regardless of degrading the quality of the broadcast to the viewer. They earn money 24/7 from those infomercials on Extra / Extra 2.

    • THIS!!!! OH MY GOD THIS!!! People just don’t seem to get that a lower resolution picture with less compression will ALWAYS look better than higher resolution with more compression.

      Yes, the game should be in HD, but it should be in high quality HD. Failing that, high quality SD will still provide an improvement over compressed low quality HD.

    • They get two different income streams by broadcasting different content on the HD Channel.

  • You’re mostly right about the reasons, but the truth is slightly different.

    The reason that Nine don’t simulcast on GEM and Nine at the same time, is that by splitting the audience, the water down the headline rate of viewers. They want to be able to say “4.04m people watched SOO on channel nine” and then sell this to advertisers appropriately with the big headline rate. If they split the audience, then they have to sell on both channels, and the stats don’t look so good.

    When we look back that the top-rating programmes for the year/month, Nine want SOO to be there. If they split the audience, there’s a good chance that it wouldn’t be.

    Either way, it’s a bunch of rubbish. It’s the same for the cricket – you can watch it in HD, it’s all filmed in HD, you just have to wait to watch it on Foxtel, or you have to be overseas where the broadcasts will be in HD.

  • You may not be able to watch Origin live in HD, but if you have Fox Sports HD you will be able to see it in HD on their replay. So if you’re planning on recording Origin for later viewing then record the replay in ad free HD off Fox. Thankfully channel 9 film all their league broadcasts in HD, even if they don’t care enough about the fans to broadcast it in HD like they did for a brief period awhile back. If Origin wasn’t such a big game that demands to be seen live, I wouldn’t watch the 9 broadcast at all and just wait for the HD replay instead, which is what I do for the three NRL 9 games on Friday and Sunday each week. Ad free in HD is so much better!

  • NRL matches look absolutely shocking regardless of the resolution they’re broadcast at. There seems to be some sort of issue with the bitrate or compression causing some ugly pixelation that isn’t present with other sports on other SD channels. I’d prefer it if Channel 9 sorted this issue out before broadcasting the games in HD. I’m assuming this issue is Australia wide and just not in my area.

    • Yeah I think, its compression, as someone else pointed out further up. Frankly a lot of the time content with the Nine-network on HD looks like crap, even though its nominally supposed to be HD. Not notably above SD in any case.

      • This is because the program’s they broadcast in HD are not HD recorded program’s. they are SD being up scaled to HD. If you had something like State of Origin which could be filmed in HD and then broadcast in HD it would look shit hot!

  • Why don’t Nine just swap the programming over during State of Origin? Put Gem program’s on Nine and run State of Origin on Gem. All Nine would have to do s advertise the fact that these sporting events will be in HD on Gem!

    • Because — as the post mentions — they’re obliged to offer a non-digital, SD broadcast because of the anti-siphoning rules. They can duplicate if they wish, but they can’t offer a broadcast that wouldn’t be watchable by (say) someone still running an analogue-only TV in Sydney (which hasn’t switched over completely yet).

  • and ironically if you watch the game on the NRL livestream guess what its in 720P HD. If you already do this you know exactly what im talking about and how to do it 🙂

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