In the early hours of this morning (Australian time) Rafael Nadal put the finishing touches to his sixth French Open crown, after defeating Roger Federer in the Men’s Final. The attention now turns to the grass courts and the All England Club for the Wimbledon Championships. For the first time ever the Seven Network have acquired the Wimbledon free-to-air rights, after previous rights holder the Nine Network did not renew its rights after nearly 40 years broadcasting the tournament.
Seven in recent days has begun to run promos for its Wimbledon coverage across Seven and 7TWO and has issued a press release regarding its coverage.
The key theme the press release is that Seven’s coverage will be live. During the first week of the Championships (from June 20) the live broadcast kicks off nightly at 9pm (AEST) on 7TWO, and from 10pm on 7TWO during the second week. From 11pm each night the coverage will then swap over to Seven. Seven’s coverage will be complemented by Fox Sports’ coverage of the tournament, however Seven has the right to broadcast the best two matches of each day’s play exclusively live; and it will also have exclusively live coverage of all singles and doubles finals and singles semi-finals on Seven, with some states receiving that coverage first on 7TWO.
Seven’s Head of Sport, Saul Shtein said,
“Having secured the first selection of the best two matches each day, viewers on Seven will enjoy the pick of the tennis crop. And best of all we can guarantee it will be live on either 7TWO or Channel 7 and it won’t cost them a cent.”
Seven’s coverage will be hosted by tennis great Todd Woodbridge with expert commentary from former Nine commentator John Newcombe. According Seven’s press release the commentary team also includes familiar faces from Seven’s Australian Open coverage including Rennae Stubbs and Sam Smith. In what appears to be an attempt to lower Seven’s broadcast costs, the network will also take commentary from the world feed provided by host broadcaster the BBC, who have John McEnroe as one of its commentators. McEnroe use to commentate for Seven at the Australian Open before Jim Courier stepped behind the microphone.
Fox Sports‘ coverage will be spearheaded by Wally Masur (fresh from his French Open coverage duties), Adam Peacock and Alicia Molik.
Todd Woodbridge reflecting on Seven’s upcoming coverage said,
“Our commentary team has so much experience and success at the Championships; that inner knowledge of the pressures, traditions and expertise of playing on grass will make great viewing.”
This new broadcasting arrangement for the Wimbledon Championships highlights the effectiveness of the proposed changes to the Anti-siphoning laws. Whilst under the proposed new Tier A and B List, the Wimbledon Championships are on Tier B, meaning a free-to-air broadcaster could premier the event on a multi-channel, under the existing legislation (the new legislation is yet to be passed by Parliament) “Each match in the men’s and women’s singles quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Wimbledon (the Lawn Tennis Championships) tournament” must be premiered on a free-to-air network’s primary channel, meaning in the case of Seven it would not have been able to broadcast any of these listed matches first on 7TWO.
In order to enable Seven to broadcast the relevant matches on 7TWO, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy , Senator Stephen Conroy issued a new Events Notice under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to delist the Wimbledon Championships.
The justification for the delisting (over the last 12 months the Minister has delisted a variety of AFL matches, Australian Open tennis matches, allowed SBS to broadcast World Cup Soccer matches on SBS Two, and also allowed Ten to continue Commonwealth Games coverage exclusively on One HD during its news broadcasts) according the Notice’s Explanatory Statement, is as follows:
“This will allow the free-to-air broadcaster that holds the broadcast rights to the 2011 Wimbledon tournament (the Seven Network) to premiere these matches on a digital multi-channel in each relevant television licence area while regularly scheduled programming is broadcast on its main channel. Specifically, the Seven Network intends to provide live coverage of the delisted singles finals matches (quarter-finals through to the finals) on the digital multichannel 7TWO for the first few hours of play from 28 June to 3 July 2011. At 10.30 or 11.00 pm in each licence area (depending on the match), the coverage will switch to the main channel, where live coverage will be provided for the remainder of that day’s play.
Removing these events from the anti-siphoning list will provide for greater flexibility in the free-to-air television coverage and increase live coverage of the 2011 Wimbledon tournament. This will enhance the viewing experience for Australian audiences.“
The flexibility of the Minister to remove Wimbledon is clearly a positive for those viewers without Foxtel and those who want to see as much live Wimbledon tennis as possible.
The delisting demonstrates how free-to-air networks will use their multichannels in the future to give viewers the widest possible programming options, by having normal programming on the main channel, whilst on secondary channels have sports or other complementary programming. The Minister’s decision also demonstrates the continued relevance of the Anti-siphoning laws and that they are not to be viewed as an archaic legislative instrument which enables free-to-air networks to hoard content to the detriment of Foxtel.
As seen with the recent AFL media rights deal, where Seven will only broadcast one game a week on delay into Victoria, whilst Foxtel will broadcast all nine weekly games live, the future of sports broadcasting is live sport. The new Anti-siphoning regime will facilitate and encourage free-to-air networks to broadcast more sports content live or as live, in situations where the Event is listed in Tier B, because they can utilise digital-only multichannels rather than sacrificing regular programming on their main channel and therefore not purchasing the rights to broadcast a sport at all or choosing to broadcast it on delay late at night.
The success of Ten’s Formula 1 coverage on One illustrates how digital multichannels have improved the coverage of sports that usually would not garner as higher audience on a main channel or clash with prime time programming. With digital penetration rates now at 90% across metro-markets, according to OzTAM data, and sport a proven ratings winning, the new Anti-siphoning laws should help migrate the remaining 10% of households without digital television to digital before the analogue switch off in 2013, as more sports content becomes available first on digital-only channels.
The Wimbledon Championships beginning on June 20 will no doubt be a fantastic two weeks of tennis and hopefully will result in another epic Nadal v Federer final. The Championships will also be a fantastic two weeks for Australian tennis fans, as they will be able to immerse themselves in live coverage from the All England Club on 7TWO and Seven, thanks to the Minister’s delisting of the Event from the Anti-siphoning list. Seven’s coverage should illustrate that the proposed Anti-siphoning laws are relevant in this multi-channel environment.
Update: Yahoo!7 secures the Australian online rights to Wimbledon
Yahoo!7’s press release is as follows:
Yahoo!7 Sport is serving up another grand slam for Australian fans, securing Australian rights for the 125th Wimbledon Tennis Championships starting on 20th June. Yahoo!7 Sport is now the online destination for two of the world’s four Grand Slams; Wimbledon and the Australian Open, solidifying Yahoo!7’s expertise as a leading digital platform for Australian sports fans.
In-depth coverage of Wimbledon will be provided on Yahoo!7 Sport, allowing Australians to turn online while also watching the tournament on the Seven Network. According to Brad van Wely, Head of Sport at Yahoo!7, this is a great example of media meshing, where audiences maximise their viewing experience by combining online and TV simultaneously.
“Sport is tribal, where passions and emotions run high. We will be working together with Seven to deliver the best coverage across both on air and online. At Yahoo!7 Sport the tennis fan has a voice to express their passion for the players and matches they’re most interested in. While following the live scores, fans will also be able to consume a rich variety of content including key video highlights and analysis as they follow all their favourite players from the world’s most prestigious tennis event,” said Brad.
The special event site will provide visitors with news, analysis, live scores, photo galleries and special archival vision from the All England Club. Visitors will also have access to special daily video highlights from all the big matches.
In 2011, Yahoo!7’s Australian Open destination site ensured Yahoo!7 was number one in sport for January with over 3.6 million unique browsers and over 30 million page views (Nielsen Market Intelligence – Australia – Sport – Total).