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The Sydney Morning Herald

The $55 question

Author: Michael Idato
Date: 14/08/2000
Words: 581
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 2
What will viewers get for their money if they sign up for an Olympics package on pay TV? Michael Idato finds out.

The first details of pay TV coverage of the Sydney Olympics have been unveiled, as cable and satellite providers prepare to launch a saturation marketing campaign to recruit customers.

In addition to the Seven Network's 16-day continuous free-to-air coverage of major events, Seven's pay-TV sports operation, C7, will provide two additional channels, available to Foxtel, Austar and Optus subscribers.

C7 Sport's general manager, Steve Crawley, describes it as the equivalent of "the ticket you couldn't get". For customers, it's the ticket you have to put faith in, as it's sold on a pay-now, find-out-the-schedule-later basis. (Depending on when you sign up, the double-channel package costs between $55 and $77.)

Pay TV will screen almost 800 hours of continuous coverage of the Games, on two channels: an Australia-centric channel called C7 Olympics, and an international team channel called C7 Games.

"C7 Olympics will focus on Australian individuals and teams," Crawley says, "while C7 Games will give this country some credit for having taste beyond our shores." C7 will offer "uninterrupted coverage of total sports", he adds. "A lot of people don't like being swapped around events, and we will try as much as possible to live by our schedule. There was a great line used once on the racing station 2KY, which was: 'War has broken out in the Falklands, and now we're going to cross to the first race at Moe.'"

While Seven's free-to-air coverage will be steered by well-known Olympians, popular events and packages of highlights, Crawley says C7 will veer more towards full coverage of less mainstream sports.

"We're at the equestrian for six hours straight; we don't leave it. The cycling is the same. We will screen whole field events which people have never seen before. It's a long story to tell, and we can tell it."

Although C7 scheduled a 16-day broadcast, Crawley admits that only the first week is firm. "The first week you could take as 99 per cent what we're doing. We have our 24-hour plan for the second week, but there will be sensations; you don't know who the stars are going to be. The majority of people want to watch every swimming heat, but while that swimming is on, so too are the Hockyroos, the Boomers, Brazil v Italy and the Dream Team.

"Not everyone is going to watch C7 all day, but I know the guy who loves his basketball is going to pick out the exact events he wants to watch."

Meanwhile, the US network NBC is pressing ahead with plans to Webcast some highlights packages of the games, despite an IOC ban on Web streaming because of fears it would violate existing TV contracts. NBC is adamant its Web site streaming would be available only to broadband consumers in the US and would be confined to small packages of highlights available on a 24-hour delay.

The Sydney Paralympics Organising Committee (SPOC), however, is planning

to use the Web for a more comprehensive coverage of its events. SPOC negotiated television and Internet rights at the same time, with the international Internet rights held by Some 30 television broadcasters, including our own ABC, America's Fox and Britain's BBC will screen highlights of the Paralympics.

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