For Eddie McGuire, the arrival of the Olympic Games is the fulfilment of a pet project he initiated during his days as CEO of the Nine Network 2006-07.
Now as he heads to London to jointly commentate for Foxtel and Nine, the Games are coming full circle.
“When I was CEO I called in Gary Fenton and Jeff Browne and we sat down and said ‘Let’s have a look at what’s going on in Sport. What can we get?’ We’d just lost the AFL but we kept the Cricket, Rugby League and Rugby Union,” he explained.
“We got the white board out and looked at all these different sports and we all looked at each other and said, ‘What about the Olympics?’
“Seven were the incumbents and they had a pretty strong grip on it.”
“We set up Gary Fenton in a covert operation, that basically no-one knew about, no-one at Channel Nine, no-one at PBL (now Nine Entertainment Co.), no-one anywhere other than the three of us, to go and get the Olympic Games.
“At that stage we were hoping to rebuild Channel Nine, so 4 or 5 years down the track we thought if we had these things in place, you’ve got the Olympic Games to really turbo-charge you. We’ve seen with Commonwealth Games how much revenue you can bring in and the Olympics are almost a given that they suck the life out of the market for a while.”
After McGuire’s exit as CEO, the deal was signed by his successor David Gyngell and Jeff Browne at Nine and Peter Campbell and Kim Williams at Foxtel.
“Nine having had such a wonderful year this year with The Voice, and now an opportunity to relaunch Big Brother off the back of the Olympics, there’s a little bit of serendipity in everything coming together. It took a few detours along the way obviously, but I’m delighted for Jeff and David who certainly ran with what was the original idea. They nailed it, they had to go and sign the cheque, they had to convince (equity partners) CVC Asia which was a big cheque at the time,” he says.
“It’s not that long ago people were saying it would fall over, Nine would have to sell it, they wouldn’t make any money out of it. Only 18 months ago. So it’s a credit to them that they were able to get this deal done.”
Now as a personality shared by both broadcasters he will commentate the Opening and Closing ceremonies, marathon and triathlon events for Nine and the remainder of the time will be fronting Foxtel’s broadcast with Matt Shirvington.
Sharing the love for both his employers, he suggests that Nine / GEM will offer free coverage for the casual viewer while Foxtel has 8 dedicated HD channels for the discerning sports fanatic.
“It’s an opportunity to broadcast exactly what people want as opposed to what we can give you and having to compromise. Nine has 14 hours, 3D Channel, everything Wide World of Sports brings to the equation, it will just be sensational. So if you’re a casual watcher, or someone who falls in love with the Games, you can let Nine programme it for you. If you’re somebody who is passionate about a particular sport you can get the long-form (on Foxtel),” he says.
“I think it’s one that really works well together and I’m not trying to gild the lily on that. I really believe that both platforms give you everything. For the first time ever you can watch whatever you want. Always the screaming from people is ‘You cut away from our Sport! I never see anything Live.’ But this has everything.
“If you’re just a casual observer, Nine will be going to whatever the big one is at that particular moment. But there are people who love Tennis and will want to watch a full Tennis match, whereas traditionally at the Olympics you might see a couple of games and they crash out of that and go somewhere else.”
Residential Foxtel subscribers will also be able to watch via a Foxtel tablet app and the Pay TV provider already has its TV schedule online.
“Technology has finally caught up with what people want. The combination of the Anti-Siphoning, multi-platform on Free to Air, Pay TV, it gives you everything,” says McGuire.
“Then there’s the tablets and Twitter.
“There will be a lot of people on the train in the morning on their iPads watching the Olympic Games.”
Foxtel’s Olympic coverage begins with Football: GRBR v NZL 12:45am Live Thu July 26.