Why is it that we can watch lawn bowls in high definition in this country but, unless you are willing to cough up for pay TV, you won’t be able to watch a live HD telecast of the Grand Final of the largest and most popular sport in the land?

The simple reason is because Channel 7, which holds the free to air rights, prefers to use its bandwidth on the 7Mate channel rather than broadcast footy in HD.

The logic on this – and this is an educated guess – is that rather than simulcast the Grand Final in HD on Mate, Seven would rather trap mug punters who won’t, or crucially can’t, cough up for Foxtel into watching the standard version.

And then they can rake in the dollars from flogging ads on Mate anyway. A double dip. Why restrict your revenue when you don’t have to?

It is decisions like this that demonstrate why free to air television networks are destined to join the Hamburg to New York zeppelin route in the dustbin of capitalist history. And Seven is by far and away the healthiest of the Australian commercial TV networks. Yet they are still reduced to doing this, despite actually filming the games in HD.

At risk of sounding like a spruiker for Harvey Norman – another enterprise destined for the aforementioned waste basket of mercantilism – footy is better in high definition. So are most movies. Sitcoms aren’t but that’s not really the point: footy is and more people than Channel Seven obviously realises have invested some rather substantial sums in new TVs for the main purpose of watching footy.

If you’ve parted with a large sum of money in order to watch TV in high definition, then parting with a far smaller sum on a monthly basis to ensure you can do so suddenly doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Given this is the first year of the TV rights deal, it will be interesting to see just how many people sign up with Fox Footy next year on the back of Seven’s decision.

But frustrated viewers – and want to be viewers – can console themselves with the fact that soon all this will be over. The AFL has made very plain that it intends to sell content straight down the pipe to consumers using the NBN. The next media deal will most likely have a free to air broadcast element – I don’t see it dying off within the next five years, but more likely within the decade – but the centrepiece will be the ability to access the content directly yourself.

In this brave new world, the individual will be king. If you have invested in the technology, then be guaranteed that the AFL will provide you with the suitable feed.

A feed produced entirely by the AFL. With AFL endorsed commentators.

Maybe the old days don’t seem so bad after all.


Want to protest the lack of a live Grand Final telecast in HD? Check out this page on Facebook.