It’s one morning into Channel 7’s coverage of #Rio2016 and I’m already bloody furious!
The men’s road race was on last night, undoubtedly one of the races of the year, and apparently an absolute ripper. I missed it.
I saw the first part of the race, which was fine, but at 1am and with 3 hours more racing ahead, I had to give in to sleep, making sure to hit record on the PVR before I went. You see, we have a baby and she doesn’t understand Olympic sport or timezones.
This morning I jumped out of bed, ran to my TV while carefully avoiding looking at my phone (spoilers), then got stuck into it.
It was all going to plan, I was enjoying the coverage and Scott McGrory’s commentary, and looking forward to the business end of the race… those brutal climbs and twisty descents…
Disaster struck! THE SWIMMING STARTED (who could have predicted that?) and Channel 7 decided to punt the cycling from its main channel onto 7 Mate.
“The road race will continue for a short time, for the time being, over on the Olympics from Seven app, and will return on 7 Mate…”
Ai, caralho! It’s 3am and I’m asleep! My PVR doesn’t know it needs to change channels! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!
The disaster struck with 73km to go, but then the race came back. Then the same message at 63km to go, for a look at the rugby 7’s. Yet again, the race came back! It seemed the producers were literally making and changing decisions on the fly.
Filho da puta!
Then with 54km to go it was off to the pool, and that was basically it. The action was elsewhere.
I saw a tiny bit (a minute or so) more cycling with 20km to go, but the race had blown up by then, and we’d missed everything important. Besides, it was immediately back to the pool. I watched all this in 30X fast-forward, desperately hoping for more bikes, and fearing the worst.
With 500m to go the telecast returned, so I saw Greg Van Avermaet win the sprint. Yay, Greg!
No. I am pissed off that I missed the race.
Yes, it’s the Olympics, there’s a lot on at once, and you can’t please everyone. But switching channels mid-event with no warning is a real dick move.
What should Channel 7 be doing instead?
Make a commitment that if an event starts on a particular channel, it won’t suddenly move to a different one. Publish which channel is hosting which sports in advance. The event schedule has been set for months.
Support expected user behaviour
Understand that the games are happening at the worst possible time of day for Australian audiences, which means people want and need to record things. This should be obvious, and the Seven telecast should support this basic user behaviour.
Give people information
The broadcaster needs to let people know which channel to watch/record! Seven has provided no way of knowing which of its three broadcast channels is showing a particular event. Its app shows what time an event is on, but crucially not which channel. Even if I did stay up to watch an event, Seven’s lack of forewarning means I have no idea if they’ll actually show it, or where.
Don’t make people do stupid things
If I want to be absolutely sure not to miss an event I want to see, I need to record all three broadcast channels, and then fast-forward through all three recordings until I can find the event. Ugh!
Technology is great, but only when it solves a user’s problem
Seven is live-streaming events through an app. Last night I woke up and tried to watch the road race finish using it, but it couldn’t connect to the servers, so that wasn’t an option. It’s also impossible to record a live stream, so the app doesn’t solve the ‘3am problem’. The app is slow, buggy and designed poorly. It feels like a real afterthought or exercise in box-ticking. The website is worse. Telstra seems to be responsible for this.
Have a plan B
As of Sunday morning (when they’re most needed) there are no highlights of the road race available in the app. There seems to be some video available for premium subscribers – I don’t have a problem with monetising Olympic content, which Seven paid a lot for, but frankly the app’s performance and reliability are so poor at this point that I don’t trust it enough to pay for it.
The kicker is: I knew this would happen, and I was really nervous about missing the road race, because Australian broadcasters are consistently terrible (see scheduling, punctuality, the quality of their on-demand services and apps, platform support etc). Cycling is a minority sport, and it isn’t taken seriously by commercial broadcasters, so it gets shoved around.
It was bad enough in 2012, but in 2016 it’s a joke. We’ve been living in an on-demand, user-centric world since at least Beijing 2008 – why can’t our Olympic broadcasters catch up?
On the positive side, Seven’s coverage and commentators are (so far at least) nowhere near as jingoistic and brainless as Nine’s nauseating effort in London. Small mercies.