A message to Channel Ten (and any network which gets the rights to a multi-sport event) about their coverage
I’m a sports fan, so as you can probably guess I’ve been watching the Commonwealth Games. Well, I’ve been trying to watch it! It’s been playing on Channel 10, and it’s digital channel, One HD, and while there’s a few things they’ve done well in bringing the games to our TV (and computer) screens, I think there’s some things they could do better. Let’s start with the negatives and progress upwards…
1. No need for a history of Ian Thorpe
Too soon? Don’t worry, this is not a reference to Thorpey’s Parkinson interview. A Sunday night interview with a sportsperson leading into a major event is entirely appropriate. The interview was a good look back at the great man’s career (and of course the challenges he faced in his personal life).
The wrong time for a Thorpey retrospective is on Saturday night, during the major event, while 6 other sports are going on at the same time. (I only know of 6 because of point 7, below). Ten played a puff piece discussing a series of Thorpey’s (very impressive) achievements instead of showing live sport. The history lesson was entirely unnecessary when there’s so much other stuff going on live. I couldn’t think of a single reason to play that clip – at least the other corny montages they have played have been intended to promote upcoming events.
2. Use of multiple channels needs fine-tuning
On Saturday night, we watched the Australia v England netball game, some cycling, swimming heats, and an early qualifier for the Rugby 7s, all on One HD. It was excellent. At around 8.30pm, Greg Rust, Host, told Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and Queensland viewers that they should turn to Ten to continue watching the coverage. Now, this wasn’t simply a matter of picking up on another station where One HD left off – like Channel 9 do at the cricket or 7 at the tennis when they cross to their news services at 6pm. Instead, Mel McLaughlin and Ian Thorpe were in another studio, and may as well have been on another network, as they then showed replays of all the events we had just seen on One HD. I reckon plenty of viewers would have tuned out and switched to the NRL/AFL footy or the Super Rugby final instead, rather than re-watch what they had just seen.
3. Show us “some more sport”!!
— TEN Sport (@tensporttv) July 28, 2014
My biggest bugbear is that so frequently channel 10 failed to show any live sport, preferring interviews, replays and montages. On Monday 28 July, the opening hour of the Channel 10 coverage was all replays and interviews. At the commencement of the coverage, while live sport was going on (athletics, bowls, and squash just to name a few) we got to see a replay of Magnussen’s race from 14 hours earlier and a poor interview by Thorpey where “Maggie” (Thorpe’s words, not mine) gave answers that Thorpie simply didn’t listen to, and in the end was so boring that I think Mel McLaughlin (co-host) tried like crazy to rescue it. Ten then topped this with a cross promotion for the Big Bash cricket. I know their cross promotion here was minimal compared to Channel 7 during the Australian Open tennis, but at least Channel 7 only do that during the change of ends. My team that I follow, Melbourne Stars, had just recruited England’s Kevin Pietersen. I should be happy with that, if he’s in form he’s a great recruit, but I know very well that the Decathlon was on, and I would rather watch that! I can hear about cricket anytime between now and when the season starts in five months time! Thank god for point 7 below…
Moral of the story – what’s the point of paying for the rights if you won’t show any of it? In this day and age where our ability to find out sport results is instant thanks to the internet, why can’t TV networks let us see it as it happens – or close enough? On both the times I watched One HD for extended periods, they would focus on a sport (usually netball or swimming) and then during the breaks between quarters or heats they would cut to another venue (eg Athletics) to show replays of what had just happened. We were watching sport the whole time – and it was awesome. If the Ten coverage was anything like the One HD coverage, maybe I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this!
Might buy the tv rights for the next Commonwealth Games. I don't have anyway to show them, but then, Ch 10 don't bother showing them either
— jonnyforeigner (@j_foreigner) July 28, 2014
4. Variety is the spice of life
I’d love to see the networks show a bit of variety. I know that the networks pay a lot of money for these events in order to get ratings – so we can’t expect less popular sports to dominate the airtime. But, some coverage of the minor sports would be nice. Try mixing it up a little. I used to despise the fact that all we’d see at the Olympics was gymnastics, and at the Winter Olympics all we’d see is figure skating. Show us some of the other stuff, instead of the other fluff you show! In Ten’s case – there’s been a bit of variety but I’d like to see more of the minor sports. If we have time to show incessant replays and a Kevin Pietersen interview, we have time to show Squash, Lawn Bowls and shooting – and when they do show it, be honest and tell viewers if it’s on delay or not!
— Lee Mathers (@leemathers) July 28, 2014
5. Where’s the jokes?
One thing missing from this coverage – probably because of the timing of events coming from a European time zone – is that there hasn’t been any comedy. I obviously don’t want this in the place of live sport, but a program along the lines of Santo Sam and Ed’s cup fever, or Roy and HG’s The Dream always seems to add to the coverage. It might work a bit better at Gold Coast 2018 where there might be an opening in the schedule at the completion of play, and also there would be more access to athletes for interviews.
6. Female commentators
One thing I’ve noticed coming through strongly at this event is the presence of talented female commentators – something lacking on other networks and in covering other sports. While Roz Kelly didn’t win many friends with her request for a selfie with Usain Bolt, there have been some other shining lights. Take for example Liz Ellis and Sharelle McMahon at the netball. I also thought Liesel Jones showed she knows her sport of swimming very well, and has been great with her analysis, without resorting to over-analysis like Thorpey. Nikki Hudson was great at the hockey too, as was Emma Snowsill calling the Triathlon (I saw her calling the Mixed Teams event and I thought she was great). Of course, Mel McLaughlin has shown she’s an excellent host at the cricket and Sochi earlier this year, and has done well to try and hold things together , even during Thorpey’s “Maggie” interview. I also like the fact that they are not simply relying on women to call women’s events only, with Melinda Gainsford-Taylor providing an educated voice on Men’s athletics (as well as women’s).
The best discovery of the Commonwealth Games has been the commentary & analysis of Leisel Jones, & not just on Swimming. @tensporttv
— Michael Cowley (@mick_cowley) July 31, 2014
7. The “TenPlay” app
Don't forget you can watch 6 live streams of sport on our website and app! Then you don't have to miss a thing! http://t.co/7SkAkiUNrW
— TEN Sport (@tensporttv) July 28, 2014
By far the best aspect of Channel 10’s coverage has been the brilliant Commonwealth Games features on the TenPlay iPhone/iPad app. I’m an apple user, so I can only speak about my experience, and guess that Android/other users are enjoying their app just as much. You can tune in to any one of six live events streamed directly to your screen, including some of the sports that didn’t get much TV airtime like Lawn Bowls. It also meant you could watch full games of Netball/Hockey without ad breaks. It was very, very close to live on almost all occasions, (a few seconds delay at worst) and a clear cut picture without being blurry or pixelated.
Obviously they need to pay for this somehow, so you have to watch three 30 second ads when you first tune in. While it would be nice if they could reduce some of the advertising – I understand they need to make their money back! What they could do is ensure the ads are different. On most occasions when I tune in, the Optus ad is replayed at least twice! Then again, maybe that’s the idea?
The best part about the Tenplay app is that it makes up for the lack of coverage on the TV. I know that there will always be something to watch!
So that’s my thoughts on the topic. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – do you like what Ten are doing? Or what Nine/Seven have done in the past at the Olympics? What would you change? I’m sure there’s people out there that must disagree with me because if TV stations are trying to maximize audiences there must be many fans out there who are enjoying the interviews! I guess not everyone is like the people I follow on twitter.
And if anyone from Channel 10 wants to chat, the Gold Coast seems like a nice place to visit, or work, maybe in 2018? 🙂
Yours in sport