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“Strange behaviour at TV1” irks many

Steve Deane spent his entire Monday night watching the Commonwealth Games. He wasn't overly impressed. 

When that lovable funeral plan salesman Keith Quinn is having a pop at you, chances are you’ve cocked up.

Monday was a triumphant day on the Gold Coast at the Commonwealth Games, with Kiwis snaring gold in track and field, at the pool, in the weightlifting hall and on the squash court.

It should have been a time of national basking in the glow. Instead, most of us were filthy. The target of our opprobrium was TVNZ.

TVNZ’s coverage of the Games appears to be driving people crackers.

While many folks appear to be understanding of the commercial requirement to screen advertising during events, the network’s failure to screen golden and potentially golden moments live has been more than most people (this column included) can take.

Monday evening started appallingly, and pretty much went down hill from there.

While Joelle King was going for gold in a thrilling five-set squash contest with a wonderfully angry Englishwoman, TVNZ’s three ‘Games’ dedicated channels were screening a weightlifting replay, a beach volleyball replay and a boxing match between an Aussie and a Scot.

When the weightlifting coverage finished, TV1 launched into an in-studio Q+A with Portia Bing about her hurdling prospects at the next Olympics.

Never mind that King was slogging her guts out at that very moment and closing on a gold medal.

The squash could be found online. So clearly TVNZ had access to the feed – and bizarrely chose not to broadcast it other than via livestream on its website.

For those with dicey internet connections (most of the country, then) or an inability to navigate the mysteries of live streaming (the rest of the country), it was a case of tough titty.

Late, very late, in the piece the final stanzas of the five-game match appeared on TVNZ's Duke channel, allowing some TV-based coverage of a wonderful gold medal win.

The posters on Stuff.co.nz’s live blog were not kind.

“So on TV is skeet shooting with no NZers, South Africa v Wales in the Hockey, and gymnastics and boxing to follow on 59. And no squash! Thank goodness for this blog so I can follow the kiwis. Toni Street has also just said that they will be showing the 90+ kg weightlifting,” wrote one poster.

The squash debacle had actually been forecast in advance, via Squash NZ’s clearly pissed off twitter account.

And the grass sure seems to be greener elsewhere.

“From afar (Kiwi living in the UK), it seems like TVNZ have completely dropped the ball on the coverage? Whereas we've got incredible free-to-air coverage with BBC over here. Have had all the swimming, cycling etc, then a great selection of 3-4 other streams online.”

Show off.

Viewers hoping the flagship TV1 channel would at least deliver snippets of golden (and silver) moments in a timely fashion were also left bitterly disappointed.

The decision to screen these moments not only late but with a prior announcement of the result was too much for sports broadcasting legend Quinn.

Having worked for the state broadcaster from 1965-2007, Quinn was likely a key member of the TVNZ team when the network broadcast the Games from Christchurch in 1974, and again from Auckland in 1990.

More recently, major sporting events have become the property of pay TV operators, whose multi-channel digital platforms and deep well of experience in presenting sports in a way their customers find satisfactory, has led to significantly enhanced viewing experiences.

Most sports fans have become accustomed to a high level of service from sports broadcasters. Many will have been nervous when, after two cycles with SKY Television, the Comm Games returned to a state broadcaster whose charter now fully centres on turning a profit.

TVNZ, though, were bullish about what they would deliver when they were confirmed as the Gold Coast Games broadcaster in January, 2016.

“Kiwis love to cheer on our national athletes and with the 2018 Games so close to home, we think public interest will be very high," the network’s director of content Jeff Latch said at the time.

True enough.

"Nothing brings us together as a nation like a major sporting competition.”

Also true. TVNZ’s viewers seem united all right – mainly in the view that the network’s coverage is substandard.

* On the subject of sports TV rights, SKY’s ‘failure’ to capture the rights to the 2019 Rugby World Cup has been portrayed in some reports as another sign of decay in the company’s monopolistic business model.

In this case, that’s not really accurate.

Since its inception in 1990, SKY has in fact won the rights to broadcast the World Cup just once – in New Zealand in 2011 when the centrepiece of its bid was its ability to produce the coverage of the games that would support the global feed.

Other than that, SKY has pretty much taken a pass on the event. That’s because, more often than not, games are played in unfavourable time zones. The All Blacks’ pool matches are typically fairly dull walkovers. And, due to World Rugby rules, the knockout games from the quarterfinals onwards must all be screened on free-to-air television anyway.

SKY has always had a policy of not over-paying for content – and the fact is it does not see the Rugby World Cup as a high value entity.

Given they too can access the free-to-air coverage, it’s not as if SKY’s customers will miss out on seeing the event. So they aren’t likely to be disgruntled.

The only downside for SKY Sports subscribers is a possible decline in the quality of the coverage due to it being handled by a broadcaster that doesn’t typically see delivering high quality sports content as central to its operation.

That feels fairly pertinent just now.

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