Macquarie kills Ten HD as OneHD spreads to Southern Cross
By Adam TURNER
Network Ten's new 24 high-def sports channel is coming to regional Australia, but non-sports lovers are paying the price.
Southern Cross viewers in regional New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT will get access to OneHD on July 2. Ten HD will be put to the sword and there will no longer be any high definition broadcast on Ten’s regular programming in these areas - mirroring Ten's changes in Australia's major cities. OneHD will be broadcast on Channel 50.
This is obviously great news for sports nuts who live away from the big smoke, but everyone else is paying the price. Dramas, sit-coms and movies that people previously enjoyed in high-def will now only be broadcast in standard-def. Ten's second SD channel is merely a standard-def simulcast of OneHD - so it's not like there's even extra content to choose from. The One SD channel shuts down completely when AFL is screening on Ten and OneHD - making a mockery of the claims that digital is offering more choice.
As with their city-dwelling cousins, this will drive some regional viewers who have invested in a HDTV to abandon watching these shows on live TV in favour of downloading high-def versions from the internet. Of course downloading such files is more of a challenge for those who live a long way away from the fast download speeds and generous data allowances offered to city broadband users.
Southern Cross' owner Macquarie Media Group has obviously crunched the numbers and decided switching from Ten HD to OneHD would gain them more viewers than it would lose them. This is a fair call, as no-one ever went broke overestimating Australia's love of sport. Still, it spits in the eye of those who paid good money for high-def gear so they could watch things other than sport.
I still think Network Ten should have made One its second SD channel and then offered a mix of Ten and One on the Ten HD channel. That way we'd get the best of both worlds, rather than shafting drama lovers so we can all enjoy poker and netball in glorious high definition.
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The same law that prevents such events being shown exclusively on pay television also prevents them being shown exclusively on digital only free to air channels (such as the secondary free to air stations). This was a concession made to Foxtel in exchange for them no longer being able to make exclusive deals for such things.
As long as that provision exists in the anti-siphoning laws, you'll see this kind of thing continue.