Channel 7 misses the digital point

Channel 7 holds the rights to broadcast the Olympics, but clearly doesn't get the possibilities that digital television brings.

Last night was the first football match, with Australia's mens team playing Serbia. The game started at 19:00 Sydney time, but Seven delayed coverage until 21:00. What's more, they interrupted coverage to cut to the announcement of the flag carrier for the opening ceremony. Then they broke for an ad at the forty minute mark, in other words with only about five minutes to half time.

This kind of thing is completely avoidable with digital television. They could have very easily used spare bandwidth on their transmitter to show the football match live, while keeping their main-channel programming.

The DVB standard, used for digital terrestrial television in Australia and most of the world outside North America, allows for all kinds of dynamic reconfiguration of channels and bandwidth. In Australia the mandate for high definition television reduces the available bandwidth, there are alternatives.

For example, the bandwidth on the high def channel could be reduced during the Olympics. Or Channel 7 could lease spare bandwidth from some of the other broadcasters, perhaps with some revenue sharing -- DVB receivers are very flexible with where the programming comes from.

This kind of setup would be useful throughout the Olympics. There's loads of concurrent stuff going on, so why not show more of it? If the broadcasters want to push the digital switchover, using the technology to its full capacity during such a high-profile event would surely help.

Another alternative would have been to allow SBS, the "complementary" broadcaster for the Olympics, to carry all the football. SBS are the acknowledged home of football in Australia, and we would have ended up with good live coverage and knowledgable presenters. I'm not the only one to suggest this, of course.

As an aside, aren't the Chinese spectators subdued? I've seen more lively funerals than last night's football match!