With the launch of 7HD across Australia’s five main metro cities last week, regional viewers have again been left to feel second rate.
Viewers in regional areas are currently missing out on 3 multi-channel services, 7HD, 7Flix, and TENHD
7HD was launched last week in metro markets to provide HD coverage for free to air AFL fans. The channel is likely to also provide a key role in Seven’s coverage of the Rio Olympics.
In Melbourne and Adelaide, 7HD provides a simulcast of Seven main channel content, however in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, 7HD provides a simulcast of 7Mate.
A spokesperson for Prime Television has indicated to DeciderTV it will take time to add the additional channels due to technical restraints, and the need to upgrade broadcast equipment across regional Australia.
“Unlike the metropolitan television situation, delivering a complex array of HD and SD services that vary by regional broadcast area, is technically challenging and takes significant time and resources to implement.”
The new 7HD service is broadcast in an MPEG4 format, a move that requires far less spectrum than the previous 7Mate channel which until recently was a HD MPEG2 channel. The downside is that some digital televisions are not able to receive an MPEG4 signal.
By making use of MPEG4, Seven is looking to launch more SD multi-channels over the next year. These channels potentially could be used to deliver more Rio Olympic content to viewers this August, including a channel focused on women's team events. Seven has also expressed an interest in providing other broadcast services including foreign language content, Kids shows, and lifestyle programming.
However it remains unclear if regional viewers will gain access to these new channel services in time for the Olympics, a spokesperson for Prime TV stating:
“We will keep viewers updated of our plans and when the changed services may become available in regional areas, but for the time being PRIME7 and 7TWO will continue to be broadcast in SD and 7mate will continue to be broadcast in HD (in the MPEG2 format).”
Regional viewers will likely gain access to the TEN HD channel once an expected new affiliate agreement between WINTV and the Ten Network commences in July.