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Nine wobbles but Foxtel fires with Olympics coverage

Can the Boomers beat Spain in 2012 London Olympics Basketball? Image: MARK RALSTON / AFP
Roar Guru
8th August, 2012
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3008 Reads

The days of the powerless viewer are long gone but Channel Nine has yet to get the message. Nine has been rightly slammed over its ordinary coverage of London 2012 and has received disappointing ratings.

Foxtel, on the other hand, has seen viewing figures jump through the roof with its eight free channels.

Following the pasting it received at last year’s Rugby World Cup, and the criticism it received over the 2002 FIFA World Cup, you think Nine would have taken notice.

The audience is now empowered. They don’t want be told what to watch or when to watch, and they don’t have to. They have choice. And they want good coverage, not jingoistic crap or random jabbering.

But Nine doesn’t seem to be listening.

Before the Games even started, the network was boasting about how good the ratings were going to be, and how much money they were going to make.

This was despite the time zone difference compared with the Beijing Games and the fact that Australia wasn’t predicted to win as many medals as in past Olympics – a prediction which definitely came true.

Nine has been severely shown up.

It has been bagged in the beginning for showing repeats of swimming, swimming and more swimming. A Facebook group called ”Channel 9 Olympics Coverage Sucks” has more than 25,000 likes and an online petition has been directed at the IOC to campaign for future rights of the Games to go to multiple channels.

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Other media have lined up to take potshots at Nine, which has offered little variety in its Olympic coverage and promoted its new shows like Big Brother with a relentless robot-like tenacity.

And if I see that ad for Swisse Vitamins one more time I will throw up.

Getting a personality like Karl Stefanovic, hardly the most popular in the land, to anchor its coverage was a strange move. And getting the likes of Tele journo Rebecca Wilson in, who questions the legality of the performances of a Chinese swimmer, is a bad look.

Foxtel, on the other hand, scored a win when it decided not to charge its existing subscribers extra for its Olympic coverage. Viewers get eight channels and are free to watch their favourite sports and get a wide breath of Olympic content. There is also a better calibre of commentators, less interrupting ads and the ability to watch the big contests live.

Sure, it’s not problem-free.

Two days ago Eddie McGuire’s call on the men’s triathlon final was painful, as he complimented the event on its ‘international’ flavour. Hello Eddie, this is the Olympics, what did you expect?

And Alan Jones’ editorial diatribes – one I’ve caught was on why they should get rid of the medal tally – have hardly been everyone’s cup of tea.

Still, on Foxtel viewers have basically been able to watch what they want from London when they want. For example, I have been able to catch every Opals and Boomers game live, not on delay or a quarter here or there, and most of the Aussie boxers in action.

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Foxtel has reaped the benefits. On Tuesday, 524,000 people watched the Games in prime time and it has been the beneficiary of record-breaking audience numbers throughout the Games.

On Saturday, it had an average of 619,000 viewers. Remember Foxtel is only in roughly 33% of Australian homes.

While on Nine the ratings have been down on average compared with the Beijing Games. This was expected, but the ratings are also down on Athens, which comes as somewhat of a surprise.

Across the first week, the Olympics has averaged 1.65 million metro viewers on free-to-air versus Athens’ 1.79 million and Beijing’s 2.02 million viewers. Australia’s poor showing on the medal tally certainly hasn’t helped the Nine figures, but neither has its shoddy coverage and poor commentary.

The bigger question is, with the NRL rights up for grabs at the moment, will Nine learn? Will the network lift its game in the future?

Follow John on Twitter: johnnyddavidson