The Olympic Games is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, so it’s no surprise that Australians will be watching TV and listening to the Radio in likely record numbers over the two weeks of the games. We’ve spoken to all the major broadcast networks to get you the detail of exactly what you’ll see and how you can make the most of that big screen TV you have.
Representatives from Foxtel, the Nine Network and the ABC joined me on this week’s episode of my weekly technology podcast Your Tech Life. We discussed the technology behind the games coverage and also what we as punters back here on the other side of the world can expect to see and hear.
In perhaps the biggest change to the way Australians can access the Olympic Games from their lounge room, Foxtel has added eight dedicated Olympic Games channels for subscribers to the sports package (that’s 80% of all Foxtel customers), while customers who don’t have Sport now simply need to add it for the month and the Games channels will be accessible.
The new channels are numbers 184-191 (with the signal defaulting to HD for customers on the IQ2 HD box) named LONDON 1-8.
Those eight channels will broadcast a combination of LIVE and replay events 24 hours a day. Of course, the main action happens from evenings Eastern Australian time through to around 7am the following morning. A key part of the rights that Foxtel have to broadcast the games means they must show all events in full, so they cannot start showing a Water Polo match and then cut away to something else. They must see it through to its result. This is great news for fans of some sports that normally don’t receive a lot of attention.
There will be over 1,100 hours of live broadcasts on the Foxtel Olympic channels, and while they can’t say “you won’t miss a thing” it’s going to be a very rare thing that an event won’t be shown on Foxtel. The pay TV network pledges in their advertising that they will show every one of the 302 gold medal events live.
Importantly, Foxtel also have mobile streaming rights to the Games, which means that as a Foxtel customer you can download the new Foxtel Olympic app for your Android or Apple tablet and get access to the eight Olympic channels anywhere you are. The App also features a fantastic TV Guide which shows you at a glance what event is on at what time, whether it’s broadcast live and if an Australian is involved.
The Nine network’s coverage is very similar to what we’ve always come to know and love about the Olympic Games coverage here in Australia. Taking the baton from the Seven network, which has brought us most of the games in recent memory, Nine does have a lot to live up to.
While the amount of coverage will be similar to previous games (approximately 400 hours) the key difference to the Foxtel offering is a genuine Australian focus, looking at what’s happening at any given time for our Aussie team.
Nine has assembled a crack commentary team for its coverage, but the thing that will bring a smile to the face of many of our readers is the addition of HD coverage on the network’s GEM channel.
GEM will simulcast the Nine coverage in Full HD, making great use of the millions of huge flat screen TV’s that have been purchased in recent years.
But what about those of you who shelled out for a 3DTV? Well in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and on the Gold Coast you will have access to a special test channel – number “95” – which will broadcast in 3D.
Broadcasting State of Origin matches from the last 3D trial on a loop while we wait for the Games to start, there is one important thing to note about this channel – there won’t be any live sport on it. In fact, it’s only broadcasting from 11am until around 4pm each day. While that’s disappointing for some, at least it’s some reason to crack out those fancy glasses. Be warned though, if it’s been a while since you’ve used them, you might want to charge them first.
Channel 9 also have their pre-existing commitments to the Rugby League coverage in some states, so be warned that will take priority over the games on a Friday night.
ABC Local radio across Australia has a long, 80 year history with the Olympic Games. So you can expect a very special coverage from a very dedicated team. Live on Local Radio stations the coverage will also be broadcast on “ABC GAMES”, a new digital radio channel. With highlights and replays throughout the day, and live coverage during the evening the Digital Radio channel will offer the best quality uninterrupted coverage of the games.
So if you’re tucked up in bed and the 400m freestyle final is on at 2am, reach over, turn onto the ABC and you’ll hear what you need and then roll over and go back to sleep.
Owners of Radio 2GB in Sydney, Macquarie Radio have the commercial radio broadcast rights across Australia. On a network of stations across the country (including 3AW, 4BC, 6PR as well as major regional networks) you’ll get constant coverage from evening until sunrise.
The way 2GB does its coverage is the most dynamic of all the broadcasters, with its team of Ray Hadley, Matt Thompson, Mark Levy, Gordon Bray and others placed ready to call any event at any time with little notice. This allows them to quickly choose to broadcast a sport or medal if it seems of value to the audience.
You can guarantee that if it’s happening in London and it’s something you’ll want to hear, Ray and the team will be very keen to bring it to you live.
While some of the coverage is “same-same but different”, the pay TV experience, and HD broadcasts along with the mobile apps really will make this something special for Australian sports lovers.
One key element of the coverage that was mentioned by almost every broadcaster was the fact that social media is going to have a massive impact on the way coverage is done.
We can expect the ABC and Nine networks to be monitoring social media closely, and using content from viewers and fans around London to enhance the coverage. It will also help the networks capitalise on the expanding trend of ‘second screen’ viewing coming to live TV.