Finally! Footy grand finals get HD broadcast

Angus Kidman 18 August 2015

afl finalsAustralia's NRL and AFL grand finals will make the leap to high definition broadcast this year.

The government is planning to shortly introduce legislation that removes the existing requirement that all primary TV channels be broadcast in standard definition, the Herald Sun reports. (News Ltd papers are regularly used by the Coalition government to "drop" news, so we're assuming this is going to happen.)

Under "anti-siphoning" laws, key sporting events such as the Grand Final must be offered to free-to-air channels ahead of pay TV companies. Grand finals are generally among the highest-rating TV events of the year. 2.8 million viewers watched last year's AFL clash between Hawthorn and the Sydney Swans.

However, current law also requires that the main commercial channel for each network be broadcast in standard definition (SD) rather than high definition (HD). That move was part of the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting, and was meant to ensure that viewers with cheap SD set-top boxes didn't miss out on major events.

The end result of the two rules? Grand finals have been stuck in SD, even though the vast majority of Australians have TVs capable of viewing HD content.

Viewers have long complained about the lack of HD broadcasts for big sporting fixtures. In theory, Nine (which has the rights to both sporting codes) could simulcast the grand final on Gem, which broadcasts in HD, but it has never done so.

The proposed legislative change would remove the requirement for the main network to broadcast in SD, making it possible for the main commercial channel on each network to switch to HD instead. The legislation would have to be enacted before September 17 to enable either grand final to be broadcast in HD, but it's expected to be supported by both Coalition and Labor. The AFL Grand Final is on October 3; the NRL Grand Final is on October 4.

Picture: Steve, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)

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