Didn’t hear about it? You weren’t alone. We all thought the networks continued through the year as if it was still 2006 as not a word was uttered about this partial lifting of multi-channel restriction on commercial stations. (ABC and SBS have been allowed to offer multi-channelling since digital TV started in 2001)
The new channel would offer around 50 hours per week of exclusive content not available on the core channels. Programming would include time-shifted content such as delayed broadcasts of Ten News, and would also include movies, sci-fi, documentaries and extensions of existing Ten programs such as Australian Idol.The announcement from Ten seemed to spark some interest among its rivals, as only a day after their announcement the Seven Network said they will also be launching a separate high-definition channel, also to launch in December. However while Ten was able to spell out its program strategy and station identification for TenHD, Seven was only able to offer a vague statement as to its HD offering. There was no channel identification and no indication of programming. It looked as if Seven had been caught on the hop by Ten, and perhaps tried to ‘spoil’ Ten’s announcement with a rushed press release to state its intentions.
Then the Nine Network got involved with parent company PBL Media boss Ian Law making a statement to thepress that Nine will be beating both Seven and Ten with their own HD channel to launch in November. No suggestion of programming other than a vague statement that it will be a mix of high-definition and standard-definition (something which defies the rules set out by ACMA), and nothing else to give away – not even a name of the channel (though 9HD seems a safe bet).
Can you see a trend happening here?
Then November came and went – and there was no sign of Nine’s ‘top secret’ HD channel until new CEO David Gyngell told the press that Nine’s new HD channel would now not launch until March 2008, and would not be treated as a separate channel – as Seven and Ten were promoting theirs – but rather just an enhancement of their mainstream channel, although all three networks had been doing that anyway in providing an HD simulcast of many standard-definition programs – so Nine’s intentions were still not totally clear but at least being upfront enough to they are not going to fall for the ego trip that Seven seems to have taken.
When Ten announced that TenHD would launch on Sunday 16 December, you’d never guess what happened next – Seven decided to beat them to it by launching their full-scale 7HD channel a week earlier, prompting another proud press release. Seven was first yet again, but take a glance at 7HD’s ‘full’ line-up and a lot of its content appeared to be re-runs of programs from their archives, and not all of it was even produced in HD, another sign that the channel was rushed together just to beat any launch date that Ten had offered in advance.
TenHD did finally launch, as announced, on 16 December with some interesting programming initiatives such as a dedicated sci-fi night, and some time-shifted content as promised although this is so far limited to only a 30-minute ‘shift’ for the 5.00pm news, and the US daytime soap The Bold And The Beautiful. More sport is expected in the new year and when ratings return in February one hopes that there will be more of their promised 50 hours a week of exclusive content, and more time-shifted content.
Despite 7HD’s initial schedule perhaps being underwhelming, there is some potential for innovation with Seven planning some original content for 7HD such as new talk shows from Deal Or No Deal host Andrew O’Keefe, and from the producer of Sunrise, Adam Boland. The promise of original content specifically for HD shows that perhaps underneath all the bravado, there is a genuine opportunity for HD to experiment a little with formats that would perhaps never see the light of day on mainstream television which in turn may see some innovation filter through to the mainstream channels – and it is one aspect that Ten has possibly ignored with TenHD.Thanks for MoeVideos, identsdotTV and galoresoftware for the YouTube clips.