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Cricket: Channel Seven Vs Channel Nine

Well, the One Day Internationals are over, and so is the Channel 7 coverage of cricket. Technically they didn’t cover any of it as they just sourced the cricket from Sky Sport and placed a bunch of people in a studio to make generic comments and announce that “South Australia are going to the news now.”

I must say that overall I was very pleased with the Channel 7/Sky Sport coverage of the cricket, the commentators were good, they knew what they were talking about and seemed interested in the game, which is more than can be said for the commentators over at Nine.

The Channel 9 commentators are a bunch of boring biddies. They sit there and tell you the same old stories year in year out. Tony Greig and Bill Lawry have the same old arguments year in year out. Heck, if it wasn’t for the fact they occasionally talk about the current game I would think it was a recording. Naturally they spend most of their time in broken record mode. Almost every catch is “the catch of the season”, and Bill Lawry insists on screaming “Got him…Yeah!” after every single wicket.

Regular readers of The Chronicle in Canberra would probably know that local media personality Rod Quinn said similar things about the channel 9 cricket coverage in his column in the late 90’s. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed in this time, there are a couple “new” faces, and Ritchie Benaud doesn’t host on his own any more, but ultimately the same old formula wins out each and every year.

Channel 9 also have a fetish for providing you with a lot of ads, not just between overs, but between balls. They are constantly trying to flog $500 (plus postage and handling) pieces of junk. Most of these items are bizarre line drawings with bits of paint splattered on them that, according to the channel 9 personalities at least, are “fantastic artworks depicting (insert semi-famous non-event here) by renowned artist (name of somebody nobody has ever heard of) , exclusive to the channel 9 cricket shop.”

A typical rundown of one of these ad break overs would be as follows:
Return from ad break
Commentator “Good delivery and a dot ball…Now here we have some artwork (blah blah blah blah blah)”
Commentator announces that the batsman got a half century and continues with advertising
“and it is by renowned artist……And it can be yours for only $599 plus postage and handling without a frame, or $699 plus postage and handling with a frame”
Commentator announces third ball of the over and reads the score
“It is a limited edition of 500, all are personally signed and numbered, call 1900 xyz xyz now for your copy of this limited edition, but hurry as they will sell fast”
Commentator announces fourth ball of the over and declares that it was a “swing and a miss”.
“You can also buy this fantastic artwork by (name) on our website (Veeeeery long URL) or visit (domain name) and click on about 20 links”
“Oh, that was a good delivery…(score)”
The commentator then recaps the important details of the picture or whatever other item they are trying to flog, announces the score at the end of the over and goes to an ad break.

It is worth noting that on most occasions, the item which was supposed to sell quickly is usually on offer again the next week with most of the limited edition still for sale.

Channel 9 also manage to ensure that any trivial event (usually a missed catch) is replayed and talked about ad nauseum for the next hour. It usually takes a couple overs for the current commentators to get over it, and then when the next batch of commentaors arrive, they have to talk about it……the bloke dropped the ball and wasn’t really going to catch it anyway, get over it!

Channel 7 haven’t stooped to such levels, their commentators haven’t managed to jinx every potential catch with the channel 9 line “Oh he can’t possibly drop this one, he is the safest catch on the field and…….OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH NOOOOOO, he dropped it, how did he manage that?”

In fact, it comes as no surprise to me that Sky Sport (who I believe cover cricket for most of the year) have a commentary team who are capable of covering the game, after all, these commentators do it all year, not just for a few weeks during the summer. I would personally be in favour of Sky Sport covering the Australian cricket season and selling free-to-air rights to one of the local stations.

I must, however, point out the two things that disappointed me about the Channel 7 coverage. My first minor complaint is that, due to cricket occurring on Thursday nights, it took the place of Stargate Atlantis, not to worry though, I got my dose tonight. My second, and much more potent complaint is Tony Squires. It has got me beat as to why Channel 7 hired the idiot in the first place, he is a pure, plain and simple pain in the neck who thinks he is funny. I can only assume that Bruce McAvaney was on holiday or didn’t want to be awake past midnight or something like that as he is truly the best sport commentator that Channel 7 have.

On that note, I hope that the AFL have learned their lesson, Channel 9 love NRL and have extended their contract, and in the process extended the number of games they will cover. Whilst I have no problems with more NRL on free-to-air TV, I do have problems with Channel 9 slotting in the AFL after two Friday night NRL games. Channel 10 have managed to uphold a sense of decency with the Saturday AFL coverage, but ultimately, nobody comes close to the professionalism and excellence of the Channel 7 AFL coverage. Lets just hope that the AFL don’t just blindly grab the highest bidder for the AFL TV rights, because if they do it will most likely end up in the hands of Channel 9 and Foxtel, whilst the new (and somewhat unofficially announced) partnership of channels 10 & 7 get left dangling a smaller wad of cash with better coverage.

It is no secret that since Channel 9 took over the AFL TV rights, AFL ratings and support in New South Wales have dwindled, this is because it receives no exposure on Friday night, very few people want to wait until midnight to watch a game of AFL, especially when it isn’t their favourite sport. Channel 10 have suffered as well, they have been trying to promote Saturday night AFL, but without the weeknight exposure, the Saturday night coverage has been a ratings disaster, which in turn makes Channel 10 less likely to run it at a decent time of the night because low rating programs don’t rake in advertising dollars.

Give the Channel 7 & 10 partnership the rights to the AFL and the game will flourish again. And thankyou to 2GB and 3AW respectively for providing such fantastic radio coverage of these sports…It wouldn’t be the same without you.

I look forward to more Sky Sport coverage of cricket (this time it is The Ashes tests) through SBS in the coming weeks. I wonder how Les Murray will go at cricket discussion, he is very knowledgable about most sports, so he should be fine….bring it on!

Samuel