Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the launch of Australia’s first free-to-air sports channel, One HD.
The channel, an off-shoot of the Ten Network, marked the first genuine commercial multi-channel with a full 24/7 schedule and unique branding that offered clear differentiation from the primary channel.
In its first year, One has secured rights to a number of sporting events, either exclusively or in partnership with Ten, as a challenge to sports channels on the pay-TV platform and to help stem the flow of viewers to pay-TV. Sports such as Australian swimming, Twenty20 Champions League and Indian Premier League cricket, Australian Open and Australian PGA golf, Formula 1 racing, NFL, NBA, Netball, UFC, NASCAR, American baseball and MotoGP have been given a greater range of coverage on free-to-air than ever before via One.
Ten’s rights to the Australian Football League have also led to extensive coverage on One – including live coverage, replays and exclusive programming such as One Week At A Time.
Extended versions of Ten’s long-running Sports Tonight and a weekly program, Thursday Night Live (pictured), have given a greater coverage of sports news and discussion.
The channel will also boast coverage of the Commonwealth Games later this year in partnership with Ten.
And it was reported yesterday that both Ten and One have snared the rights to the National Basketball League in a five-year deal from 2010/2011, taking the rights away from Fox Sports and returning the league to Ten, which previously had the broadcast rights back in the ‘90s.
The Ten/One combination is also reported to be planning a push into other major sports, with an NRL bid set to be on the agenda, and will be hopeful to maintain Ten’s decade-long association with AFL with the next rights deal soon up for grabs.
But while Ten will no doubt applaud One HD’s first year as a success, and hopefully profitable, there is the question as to how effective the channel has been in the bigger picture. Even though One manages to out-rate its pay-TV sports channel rivals, such as Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3, Fox Sports News, ESPN and Sky Racing, it has struggled to match ratings with free-to-air multichannel rivals 7TWO and GO!, both of which are building up small but significant audience numbers. So Ten might be grabbing some extra sports viewers with One but may be losing viewers to entertainment channels 7TWO and GO! – though Ten maintains some strength in its younger demographic audience and claims that One is reaching a market lucrative to advertisers. Ten also does not have the advantage that Seven and Nine have in that they are able to offload less-popular or alternative programming to their digital multi-channels – though Ten has capacity to set up a second standard-definition channel (currently being used as a standard-definition simulcast of One) and could well do so for this purpose in the future.
The launch of One as a high-definition channel has also left every non-sports program on Ten without an outlet for high-definition broadcasting, while Seven, Nine, ABC and SBS continue to provide high-definition simulcasts of their primary channel. This has always been a puzzling move, though Ten has maintained that sport is the genre most in demand for high-definition and has seen fit to use that spectrum for One.
With One currently broadcasting alongside the Ten Network and regional affiliate Southern Cross Ten, further expansion is due next month with the channel commencing transmission in Darwin on 22 April as the sister station to Darwin Digital Television.