26 January 2010

Heidi does Australia (Tennis in Melbourne Park)

What is the role of an exectuive anyway? Isn't it to execute, to choose, to make tough choices? So where were the television Channel 7 executives at 5:55 pm today Sydney time? I know, it's Australia Day, and I'm celebrating with my family. I enjoy the barbie and the lamb (thanks, Sam, good recommendation). We had a lovely day. The weathermen were dead wrong calling for rain, and I felt confident in their wrongness so we did the laundry and hung it out this morning.

Speaking of wrong calls, back to Channel 7. You see, Channel 7 rides the back of the Australian Open (tennis) each year this time. It's a good partnership, almost as good as the Woodies.

So what did the executives do or not do? In the fourth set of the match between Marin Cilic of Croatia and Andy Roddick, with everything on the line, Channel 7 said, 'we'll be back at 7:30, with the match between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.' That's it. No apologies, no "you can see the entire match in its entirety..." nothing. Wow, if it had been Lleyton Hewitt or Sam Stosur in the match, would the Aussies have pulled out for ...get this...local news! Following that in the next hour would be a feature news magazine program and a soap opera. But no more coverage of the crucial match.

Shame, shame executives. What were you (not) thinking?

Wikipedia reminds us about this similar event, four decades ago, from the US and the mistake the network executives made that day. "In American football, the Heidi Game (often referred to, facetiously, as the "Heidi Bowl") refers to a famous American Football League (AFL) game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, played on November 17, 1968 in Oakland, California. This game is memorable largely because the NBC television network terminated the broadcast in the Eastern and Central time zones with 65 seconds left to play in the game in favor of broadcasting a pre-scheduled two-hour airing of Heidi, a new made-for-TV version of the classic children's story. (The telecast included commercial breaks; the actual film ran 104 minutes.)

With the Jets leading 32-29 with only 65 seconds left in the game, NBC executives attempted to reach their broadcast operations unit to extend coverage of the game but were unable to reach them in time to delay the cutover or reinstate coverage before the game ended. In the meantime, the Raiders came back and scored 14 points, winning 43-32. As a result, no fan following the game on TV was able to see Oakland's comeback live. The complaints to the network indicated a new height of popularity for the game in the United States."

And today, Heidi does Australia. To be sure, Cilic ran the table in the fifth set and beat Roddick. OK, fair enough and they won't have to eat any crow with their lamb. But wait, maybe they should?

Think about the effect of carrying afternoon matches, Channel 7. They may well run long, and you have an obligation to carry them to the finish, don't you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chalpat Sonti brands the appalling Australian Open coverage a massive double-fault.

Same story as your blog only two days later.. Maybe you should be a write for us in WA???


Even by the already-low standards of our most protected, over-rated and pathetic industry - commercial television - yesterday was a new low.

Watching an enthralling clash between Roger Federer and Nikolay Davydenko unfold on Rod Laver Arena yesterday, I, and I'm sure many other sports fans, were stunned when as the game built to its climax Channel Seven suddenly cut its coverage.

To what, I'm not sure, as I switched off in disgust. Its schedule listed a repeat of According to Jim.

Obviously vital that this "comedy" was screened. Jim Belushi's far-too-ample stomach is probably some sort of feelgood relief for the obese everywhere in the prime viewing time of 3pm Wednesday.

But apart from the crime of running yet another piece of crap masquerading as comedy, Seven once again showed its utter contempt for Perth viewers.

Forget the problems of those in the east whose viewing gets cut short because of the "need" for the news and Today Tonight. That's bad enough, sure, when we're talking about a showpiece event of the Australian sporting calendar.

But According To Jim? Or Raggs? You cannot be serious.

Last night, insult was added to injury when Seven showed us the remainder of the Federer-Davydenko clash - four hours late.

It's bad enough having to wait three hours to watch a night game, then sit through the pre-game crap so that Rafa, Jo-Wilfried or Serena don't play until well after 8pm.

By which time most of us casual fans have found out the score. Maybe even listened to the game live on ABC Radio, with commentators who really do bring the game to life.

Seven and the other free-to-air networks have plenty of form though.

Remember the 2008 AFL Grand Final? The bit at the end where, regardless of who you followed, you waited to see the post-game highlight - Hawthorn players singing about what a happy team they were.

Or rather, not. Again Seven, mimicking its Melbourne mates who wanted to cut to the news, gave us a repeat of God This Is The Most Boring Program Ever Made.

I'm sure you've all got your favourite gripe regarding free-to-air and sport. It's a depressing broken record.

Seven are experts at the delayed telecast, doing the same with their AFL coverage. Even on Sundays.

It's a contempt that comes from its cosy position as market leader, maybe, but it's a free-to-air disease that has never gone away.

Nine enjoys showing us day-night one-day cricket during the week also on delay, but at least they do the decent thing at weekends and fit the news around the game.

Or its Wimbledon "coverage" by which Foxtel can't show games after a certain time, meaning yet again we miss out either way.

Contrast the big guns with SBS's Tour de France or Ashes coverage last year. Screened live, even for us plebs in the West.

Or even the ESPN coverage of the Australian Open, which sounds almost too good to be true. But then, they know what they're doing, unprotected by cosy monopolies.

Thankfully there is other relief on the horizon. The avalanche of new media that will slowly but surely sweep dinosaurs like free-to-air television away and will give sports fans the choice they crave.

For a price, maybe. But then again, isn't time money?