Australian Formula 1 fans may have raised little more than a cursory glance at the furor surrounding SkySports acquisition of Formula 1’s television rights this year; given we’ve always enjoyed the benefit of an English feed after Channel 10 picked up the rights from Channel 9 in 2003. In 2009, Channel 10 broadcast races on their High Definition Channel ‘ONE HD’ (a channel specifically dedicated to sports) and all seemed right with the world.
That was until this year, when Ten thought it best to move its broadcast of Qualifying to ONE HD on Saturday’s and coverage of the race on the standard definition (Channel 10). on Sunday Further confusion has ensued during MotoGP, where viewers have been forced to watch Moto3 and Moto2 in High definition, then quickly switch over to Ten to watch the premier class – whilst a netball replay is broadcast on ONE.
Confusing? Well not if you’re Rupert Murdoch. ONE HD’s sports ethos was breaking ground on free-to-air television at a time when Foxtel (Australia’s predominant Pay TV broadcaster) was losing subscribers by the truckload. It was mooted that ONE HD was also keen on showing international sports such as the NFL until their current contract ends. Beyond that, all international sporting programs will be exclusively shown on Pay TV formats such as Foxtel; Rupert Murdoch being director of the global media giant News Corp, who owns 25 per cent of Foxtel.
Enter Rupert’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, who was installed as the Ten Network’s acting Chief Executive in February, has been tapped to take over as Ten Network’s chairman, replacing Brian Long in the latest shake-up of the broadcaster’s board.
Lachlan’s first order of business was to revamp ONE HD’s programming schedule with “general entertainment” shows targeting younger men. What has ensued however is a schizophrenic TV guide that neither befits the sports fanatic, reality TV junkie, nor bikie gang buff.
This rescheduling probably has less to do with Murdoch’s claim of wishing to expand ONE HD’s audience share between 1 to 2 % and more to do with protecting Foxtel’s own interests; what better way to pick up falling Pay TV subscriptions that by dividing and conquering your direct competitors?
So at present, Australian F1 fans currently enjoy a moving target F1 coverage on a network with one hand currently tied behind its back. How this plays out remains a mystery at the moment, but Australian fans may be but a step behind the fate of their BBC viewing counterparts.