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Friday, July 27, 2012

The race begins: GC 2018 Comm Games broadcast rights.

UPDATE 19/8/14: Seven has just been announced the winner of the GC 2018 host rights fight. If you have been directed here by Google after hearing about it tonight: visit this post's sequel, it gives a great look at transport requirements for 2018.

Normally, I'd save a countdown, for the "DST Update" over at the "Couchcushion", but this seems apt. We are now 2077 days away from the event that will elevate the Gold Coast's stature to becoming Australia's "sixth city", the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I'm posting this, as a sort of "form guide" for the upcoming dogfight for the broadcast rights (along with the needs for the technical backbone), as it will likely be a major bidding war, for what will be, the first Commonwealth Games on Australian soil, since digital switchover in 2013. The first runner up to the mark: subscription television.
PAY TV: Foxtel: For Foxtel, 2018 represents redemption, after Ten acquired total broadcasting rights (not just FTA, but subscription TV, internet, mobile phone and radio rights as well) for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow back in 2008, and this will likely see Ten onselling the 2014 subscription TV rights, to Foxtel, who will likely have a finger in every pie in the dogfight, not just for 2018 CG rights, but for 2014 (Sochi, Russia) and 2018 (Pyeongchang, South Korea) Winter Olympics rights, and the big prize: the 2016 Summer Olympics, being held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Foxtel has one key advantage (thanks to the recent acquisition of Austar): Austar's Gold Coast headquarters at Robina, only 10km from the main stadium at Cararra (and minutes from the Rugby 7's venue, Robina Stadium), which could be used by Foxtel, provided some work is done prior to the Commonwealth Games, to fit in a studio, along with upgraded computers and electronics. I believe Foxtel will likely make a play for subscription rights, to GC 2018 (along with the 2014/2016/2018 Olympic rights), sooner, rather than later: as the Austar merger is already settled (next task will be to bring Austar's 750,000 subscribers under the Foxtel banner), along with the upcoming NRL 2013-18 subscription TV rights negotiations.

However, this will likely be a event dominated by the FTA's taking out major risks, to get major rewards, as there will likely be a heavily changed anti-siphoning list, to cope with a fully digital FTA environment.

FTA: Network Ten: Currently, holding total broadcast rights for Glasgow 2014, the games in Scotland will turn out to be a money spinner for Ten, with the likely prospect of Ten onselling subscription rights for a tidy sum, along with mobile, and radio rights, also worth many millions of dollars (mobile particularly, could be a major money earner, due to growth of market share for smartphones since the rights were picked up in 2008). The other major factor is that Ten will need to make a major capital investment on the Gold Coast, to develop strong local infrastructure (including introducing local news), that should have been developed by Ten, in conjunction with the embryonic stages of Big Brother at Dreamworld, a decade ago. My tip: Ten are in with a strong chance, provided they don't aim for the Olympics to return to Network Ten in 2014/2016/2018.

Seven Network: Currently, looking forward to the first summer Olympic year, without the rights to the event since 1988, Seven is looking at re-asserting itself as Australia's Olympic network, with a projected bid for 2014/2016 Olympics FTA rights, but may also need to face that, Foxtel may be the ones who decide FTA rights holders for the Olympics in the future, much like what was seen with the AFL. Seven have only screened one Commonwealth Games to date, Manchester in 2002, during their run of Olympics airings from 1996-2008. However, Seven, like Ten, needs to invest in major infrastructure, for the Gold Coast, a market that has given them grief in the past, with no Seven-branded local news on the GC since mid 2000, and the need to look at building a legacy for the Gold Coast, in terms of both facilities, and reintroducing local news, via a 7 day a week service. My tip: If Seven don't get 2014/2016 Olympics, expect them to make a bid for GC 2018 rights.

Nine Network: Currently holding the rights to the 2012 Olympics with Foxtel, Nine have had a long history with the Commonwealth Games. The network has aired the event four times, starting with Brisbane in 1982 (joint-venture with the ABC, pre-aggregation), 1990 in Auckland (first ever solo Commonwealth Games broadcast by a commercial network), 1998 in Kuala Lumpur and most recently, Melbourne in 2006. Unlike 7/10, Nine has the infrastructure in place, with a local news service (which could be easily expanded to a all week operation: currently, Nine's Gold Coast news service only airs Mon-Fri) but would still need to expand the network's presence, along with improving how the GC local news bulletin is produced. It is due to Nine's GC news service, that Nine has a much larger presence in this city, and there is strong brand loyalty to the local news service. My tip: Nine could get 2018, provided, they miss out on 2014/16/18 Olympics rights.

The other major factor is, that there needs to be the development of a strong technical backbone, that can easily be handled from the south-east corner, and can be a legacy, to be used in the lead-in, as well as being used for events that aren't connected to the Commonwealth Games (such as State of Origin).

The backbone and it's three factors: The major thing that is on all prospective host broadcasters minds, is how they will run the IBC (International Broadcast Centre) which will be based at the Gold Coast Convention Centre at Broadbeach (next to Jupiters Casino). There is also a need for upgraded communications, especially between the IBC and venues. Basically, the federal government should look towards fast-tracking the National Broadband Network rollout on the Gold Coast (something the federal opposition should not look at scrapping), so it's done in time for the Commonwealth Games, to allow for the need for additional capacity which the Games will need for data transfer (not just video, but results of events), not just between venues, and the IBC for media: but between venues, and other venues, and outdoor live sites. These interconnections, along with the need for a upgraded communications link to Brisbane (which will have two venues) and a new satellite earth station in SEQ, connected to the GC/Brisbane communications link: to allow for cheaper running costs for broadcasters, and the IBC, as it would otherwise need to be relayed to Sydney to be beamed out across the Commonwealth. A upgraded communications network, can end up being the biggest legacy for GC 2018: provided it is delivered right.

The second factor is that for a event the size of the Commonwealth Games, there will be a need for some high definition production trucks to be based permanently in SEQ, along with extra trucks, brought in from interstate, based at each venue, and increasing 3D expertise within the current crop of OB operators, as by 2018, 3D expertise may be just as important as HD expertise is in 2012. The classic example is the recent merger of QLD based Cutting Edge's outside broadcast division with Australia's outside broadcast leader Global Television, bringing on board the capability of Cutting Edge's facilities in SEQ, for Global's use, which could soon see a permanent Queensland base for Global, to save the company, a long round trip, as currently whenever a major OB happens in Brisbane (State of Origin etc.) the backbone is brought up from Sydney (which is a day's drive for a truck of it's size) and set up in the venue, a long way, from when Seven Brisbane possessed the largest outside broadcast truck in Australia in the late 1980's: which was used for many local events, and the occasional national broadcast. Global Television also has experience, with the Commonwealth Games (developing solutions for the International Broadcast Centres for Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010, and just recently, announced as the winning contender for Glasgow 2014's IBC.) and could potentially develop a very comprehensive solution, that can be cost-effective for the host broadcaster, and the QLD Government.

The final, and most crucial factor is the much anticipated rewrite of Australia's sport anti-siphoning regulations, that are currently being debated in federal parliament. As I stated at the start, the 2018 Commonwealth Games will be the first major global event held in Australia since digital switchover, meaning that anti-siphoning reform is vital. Anti-siphoning reform is something that the new QLD premier Campbell Newman and new minister for the Commonwealth Games, Jann Stuckey, need to get stuck into Canberra about now, along with dealing with the growing daylight saving issue in QLD (with DST for 2017/18 projected to end just four days before the 2018 opening ceremony, provided NSW/VIC don't to decide to extend DST like what was done for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, causing major issues for Queensland, prompting federal actions: not to mention the strong support for the concept on the Gold Coast.) The Gold Coast's starters gun has started a race that will end in six years. It's a matter of whether or not, the broadcast will live up to a entire city's expectations: along with spending (not skimping) on the communications infrastructure needed for a event of this magnitude.

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