Why You Still Can’t Watch The Grand Final In HD

Why You Still Can’t Watch The Grand Final In HD

The AFL grand final is this weekend; the NRL follows the weekend after. That means for two weeks in a row Australians will be forced to watch key sporting events in standard definition (SD) broadcasts, despite every free-to-air network having an HD channel. Digital TV is universal now, so why aren’t these major events available in HD?

Picture: Getty Images

It’s an annoyance we’ve covered several times before, and despite the fact that the digital switchover officially happened this year, meaning no-one is watching analogue broadcasts anymore, nothing has changed.

As TV Tonight points out in an in-depth examination of the topic , the main reason we’re stuck with SD grand finals is the infamous “anti-siphoning list”, which identifies sporting matches which are deemed so essential to the national psyche that they must be made available on free-to-air channels. Both grand finals are on the list, and part of the anti-siphoning requirement is that any sport on the list must be broadcast on the main channel (that is, Seven rather than Seven Mate or 7Two, Nine rather than GEM or GO!, and Ten rather than ONE or Eleven). Those main channels are only in SD right now.

There is no legislative reason, however, why both Seven (which has the AFL rights) and Nine (which has NRL) could not film the match in HD, show it on their respective HD channels (7Mate and GEM respectively) and then transmit a downscaled version on their SD main channel as well, thus satisfying the legal requirements. Indeed, that could be a useful way for networks to measure just how keen people actually are on watching HD content.

So the networks could, but they won’t. They’d rather score a handful of additional advertising dollars for minor programs on their secondary channels, knowing that people who want to watch the grand final in either code don’t have any other choice, and saving on the cost of HD cameras.

There’s also no legislative reason, now that switchover has happened, why commercial channels couldn’t switch their main channel broadcasts to HD if they wished. But none has yet made a move to do so. If you want HD sport, the only guaranteed option is Foxtel — you have to pay for that, but you still miss out on the grand finals.

This kind of continued contempt for consumers is the reason why so many Australians now avoid broadcast TV whenever possible, switching to online means (whatever their official legal status). Maybe things will improve for 2015, but this year, footy fans are still forced to live in a standard-definition universe for the most important games of the year.

Why the hold-up to change primary channels to HD? [TV Tonight]


  • Channel Nein seem to film their games in HD already. We get HD coverage of all NRL games here in NZ on Sky Sport. Will be interesting to see how the AFL Grand final looks tomorrow.It’s absurd that they won’t simulcast the game on the secondary channel.

    Now the switchover is complete, time to move the primary channel to HD? I’m glad we never had to deal with this mess over here.

    • I have no idea if “Channel Nein” was intentional play on words or an unintentional slip, but either way, I chortled.

  • It’s ridiculous that they still dont feed us HD content but the tech companies are now bringing out the Ultra HD TV’s ? When we still dont get the content to make use of our 1080P Screens.

    I stream the NFL from America and get a better picture then what the AFL will be tomorrow

  • It’s bloody disgrace that the country has to watch this game in SD. The game will actually be broadcast live in HD in other countries.

    Digital broadcasting in Australia is a disgrace.. Even the absurd channels that broadcast HD are very low in bitrate do to multi casting and most of the time they use a lower quality bastardised resolution (1440×1080).

    Another messed up part about this is that HD broadcasting in Australia used to be better, we’re going in the wrong direction.

  • So hang on, we got the rest of the season on 7Mate in HD(ish) but the final we get on normal 7 in “wonderful” 1980s mode? WTF?!?

  • I also believe that the MCG has been configured with its own HD cameras and infrastructure. Doesn’t anyone remember TEN was showing it in HD?

    • No the MCG don’t have their own HD Cameras, those where Channel 10 cameras….Channel 10 were using HD cameras and did what @anguskidman mentioned….showing the HD feed on ONE (when it was a FTA Sports channel) and the the SD feed on 10.

      Channel 7 are too tight to broadcast in HD (they said it was too expensive for HD broadcast one time)…..just plonk the cameras in and go…look at Foxtel, they have no issues

      At least I can watch the AFL GF “upscaled to 1080p” on Foxtel….oops Channel 7 barred them from simulcasting the AFL GF…

    • Advertisers. They are paying big bucks to advertise on Ch7. Ch7 can’t risk splitting the audience across two channels as it will deliver a smaller audience to advertisers who have paid for promotion on the main channel.

  • Um, just because the nation went digital, that doesn’t mean that they went HD.
    Many early adopters actually have digital tuners that are *not* HD compatible.
    If the major TV channels went HD-only, there would be an outcry.

  • If the AFL really want to stick up for the fans then when they negotiate their next TV rights deal they should demand this of the winning broadcaster.

    • 1. Legislation protects the grand final ensuring it’s always on free to air
      2. Main free to air stations are only broadcasted in standard definition
      3. To protect advertising dollars, a station should only broadcast on one channel.

      It would be great if a station could temporarily broadcast in HD. That would solve the issue.

        • Who’s they? The Government, the AFL or Channel 7? My noted points span various parties and are for good reasons.

          • Sorry, it was a response to your last sentence. I guess it encompasses all parties involved, including the NRL and Channel 9.

  • Why the hell can’t we get answers from Seven Network? Can someone from LifeHacker contact their Public Relations Officer and get an official comment/excuse?

    This situation is absolutely absurd. At a minimum the same should be broadcast in SD on 7 for the dinosaurs and in HD on 7mate for everyone else.

    Let’s do something about this, call these arseholes (02) 8777 7777 and complain.

    https://au.help.yahoo.com/kb/tv/SLN8692.html?impressions=true (source for phone number)

  • “There’s also no legislative reason, now that switchover has happened, why commercial channels couldn’t switch their main channel broadcasts to HD if they wished.”

    That is incorrect. There is a concept called the ‘Primary Commercial Television Broadcasting Service’ – that is the channel that has to comply with all the regulations about the main channel, such as the amount of Australian content, captioning requirements, different classification zones, etc. The act specifies that only an ‘SDTV multi-channelled service’ can be given this status.

    Main channels are required to be SD.


  • This is the reason I have given up on watching AFL, I decided to watch a match in the first week of the finals and was extremely disappointed in the quality. Definitely wont be watching tomorrow, disgraceful.

  • Why can’t Foxtel broadcast it at the same time in HD*? That way those that don’t have Foxtel can still watch the game and those that don’t want ad breaks every 14 seconds can watch the game without being screamed ad by Harvey Norman? That would keep the anti-siphoning laws at bay.

    * I say HD but of course Foxtel is only 1080i anyway.

      • Yeah my point is that the anti-siphoning laws say the game MUST ONLY be on FTA. I’ve got no issue with making sure key events are available to the masses, but they should allow it broadcast elsewhere as well.

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