Today, companies and organisations use social networking to their advantage by creating ways to communicate and interact with their customers and followers like never before. However, far from a one way communication tool, social networking provides customers an opportunity to let companies know exactly what they think, in real-time. Sometimes the truth hurts. Particularly when it’s out there in cyberspace for all to read and share. The recent Qantas decision to ground flights affected many passengers who took to Facebook to vent their feelings. Qantas itself admitted they waited too long to communicate with frustrated customers on Facebook. It was a similar story just last week when the Commonwealth Bank had its on-line and phone banking system crash. Customers took to Facebook to complain and lets face it, it doesn’t take much to get bank customers angry.
Just as these new forms of social networking have permeated most of our lives, they have developed a place in the sporting world as well. Teams and players of just about every sport can no longer hide behind the change rooms after a poor performance. Within minutes of action on the field or court, the world is discussing it on-line. It’s not just teams that cop it, administration bodies and media coverage comes under the social network microscope as well. When the National Basketball League (NBL) advised that this current season would feature no live coverage on the TEN/ONE network, but would rather be relegated to late night replays, there was a backlash by the fans. Initially directed at the NBL, fans soon turned their attention to network TEN and their HD channel ONE, who are in their second year of a five-year deal to broadcast the NBL. When the NBL signed up with the TEN Network, there was great celebration as the sport was back on free to air TV, live and in prime time. But that season has come and gone. So what went wrong? To understand, you need to go back to when the ONE channel was launched.
On the 16th of December 2007, Network TEN launched their High Definition station which they named TEN HD. Later, on the 26 of May 2009 the channel was re-launched as One HD or simply “ONE”. TENHD was a mix of Network TEN shows and mainly High Definition sport from overseas which included the NFL, which was previously exclusive to pay-TV. Prior to the 26th of May 2009, it became clear to Network TEN that TEN HD’s viewership was focused on their exotic sports coverage and thus TEN HD was re-launched as ONE HD – “Sharing ONE passion, Sport”.
What happened to that passion? It was (according to sports fans on Facebook) replaced by “sharing ONE passion, boredom”.
Due to unsupportable overheads caused by running ONE HD as a 24/7 sports channel, it was confirmed the channel would change to a format similar to the original TEN HD format on the 4th of April 2011. The channel would broadcast entertainment shows on weekdays with sport on weekends…
Despite that announcement, today sport is shown at random times and entertainment shows have found their way into the weekend lineup.
When ONE HD was a 24/7 sports channel, Network TEN bought the rights to the broadcast the National Basketball League (NBL). The contract included 2 live games a week with optional 3rd on delay in the first year, 3 live games in the second year and 3 mandatory live games and 2 live or near live in the fifth and final contracted year.
After the first half of their first contracted NBL season, ONE HD released its ratings for the NBL and commented saying that the NBL was one of the best programs they offered and they were overwhelmed with the ratings produced by the NBL broadcasts. To gain more ratings from the NBL, ONE HD launched “Overtime”, an NBL news (and the odd NBA news) talk show hosted by NBL commentators, with an NBL reporter and special guest (usually a player). Overtime also proved itself with more than decent ratings.
In late September, just prior to the NBL’s October 7 season (season 2011/12 and ONE HD’s second contracted season) tip-off, the NBL was scheduled for a 10:30pm time slot for every game selected to be televised in ONE HD’s first set of TV game selections.
This caused outrage by NBL fans and ONE HD’s Facebook page and TEN SPORT (a newly created page to focus on sport across TEN and ONE HD) Facebook page were bombarded with complaints from fans. ONE HD chose to ignore these complaints and it turned into a PR nightmare for them. In October, just prior to the season tip-off, a Facebook page was created and it was titled “Petition to get NBL shown live on One Hd 2011/12″. This Facebook page has received a huge following and leads the fight for live NBL. The page has several times rallied their followers to “bombard” the ONE and TEN SPORT pages with posts expressing their dissatisfaction with delayed NBL.
After the season had started, the petition page made contact with Marc Howard, the Manager for media, communications and internet for the NBL. He stated in his response (available in the NOTES tab on the Petition page) that due to ONE HD’s re-format, they were able to re-negotiate their NBL contract. Network Ten told the NBL that they had 2 offers available other than immediate cancellation of the contract. The first offer was 1 live game a week on Network Ten at the non-negotiable time of 12pm on Sunday afternoons AEDT. The other was 3 delayed games a round.
Mr Howard then stated “Our teams had been out selling sponsorships on the basis of three (LIVE) games coverage for months and it would have had a detrimental effect on all of them to choose the single game”, and “choosing the midday AEDT time slot would have meant games in Perth that we planned to telecast would be required to tip-off at 9am local time, and 11am for the Queensland teams. That would have been simply untenable and, unless we chose not to televise games from those areas which would have been very unfair to those clubs and their sponsors”.
Marc Howard also stated; “I totally understand any disappointment with the delayed telecasts and if we could have found a solution to having all games live we would have, but it is also important to remember that two years ago we had no live games on free-to-air, so we have come a long way in a short space of time”. The problem is that the fans don’t agree and they have taken to Facebook by the thousands to let the world know.
Despite the amount of negative feedback from NBL fans on Facebook, the only responses ONE and TEN SPORT have given are “We are only the digital team, we have passed on your feedback to the programming department” and recently: “The NBL will be on delay for the remainder of the season”. NBL fans are still waiting for a response from the programming department and NBL fans still don’t know why unwanted and unwatched re-runs of COPS is shown instead of live NBL.
One HD have even anticipated NBL fan responses, ONE posted on Facebook about an episode of their show “idiot abroad” airing that night. One immediately commented: “And before you get a chance we’re aware that ONE are idiots/morons/dropkicks/losers for not showing the NBL live. Once again, we’ve passed the feedback on”. An amazing response from a team that are clearly rattled by the continuous bombardment by basketball fans. Interestingly, in this fast paced, instant response world of social media, there are now numerous Facebook pages that support this cause.
Surely this ‘back and forth’ communication isn’t helpful to TEN and their aspirations of gaining ratings as a result of their re-structure of programming. The question is, what can they do about it. Qantas can buy silence by offering free flights, but basketball fans want live coverage. It’s the only thing that will quell the avalanche of social media frustration. Ultimately, Qantas passengers got on with their lives. NBL fans are a little more passionate than that.
PLEASE NOTE: The views expressed in this article are the views of the Author, not necessarily the views shared by The SportingJournal as a Publication.
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