The heat poor old TVNZ has been taking this past week over its coverage of the Commonwealth Games was always coming.


Because it's been a while since most of us watched sport on commercial free-to-air telly.

One of life's more interesting broadcasting ironies is that TVNZ once owned a pretty decent chunk of Sky TV but decided for reasons best known to itself to sell it.


Imagine how different the past 20 years would have been if the state TV operator had access to all the sport that Sky has made its fortune on.

Now the problem with the complaints from punters, ropeable about all the ads, is that they'd be moaning if their bums were on fire. In other words, as a broadcaster you can't win, because the moaners either don't get it or don't want to get it.

Sport costs money and a lot of it, and you either pay for it through advertising or through a Sky-type subscription.

They moan about Sky and its prices and how bundling is wrong and antiquated, and now they moan about TVNZ and all the ads.

Now I confess I have watched virtually none of the Games because they're an anachronistic social occasion from another era representing a club many countries either don't give any time to thinking about or want out of completely.

Let's be honest, when Mark Blumsky, former Wellington Mayor, shoe salesman and short-term MP, turns up as a lawn bowler for Niue, you know you're not exactly dealing with the elite of the elite.

So having watched nothing of the Games, perhaps it is fair to surmise some of the complaints will be based around the placement of ads, the understanding of an event, the critical nature of timing and so on.

If that's the case, it doesn't surprise me, remembering of course TVNZ hasn't done this sort of thing for an age, and it will be testing, if not breaking, its technical ability and personnel, and I suspect the decisions on squash are your classic example of an operator that's pretty rusty in the fine art of delivering what the punter needs, wants and expects.


But all this potentially of course is a precursor to the really big deal in sport, the Rugby World Cup.

TVNZ and Spark are your preferred bidders, which has also been part of the long list of complaints, the general gist of which goes something like: if this (the Commonwealth Games) is the quality of their sports broadcasting skill, God help us when the World Cup arrives.

Now what's really important about all of this from TVNZ's point of view, is sport could, should and may well play a major role in its future, especially if it can get someone big like a telco with the money to pay for it.

Free-to-air TV is in trouble, and seriously so — every year the audience gets smaller and it will never be bigger than it is right now.

So what to do?

News and current affairs is one answer, and they do it with great success; their numbers tell you all you need to know about our appetite for it.

Reality TV is dying, and local versions of franchises we've been watching for a decade are not creative or new, and the days of new American or British series are equally in trouble given we've all seen them by the time they land here.

But sport is what binds us all.

Netball this very week, it is argued, has suffered because it sold out to Sky, no one watches it, therefore kids don't play it, alternative sports come along and before you know it we are losing to Malawi.

The free-to-air operators in Australia, mainly Nine and Channel 7, use sport to great ratings effect.

So the prospect of sport for TVNZ is not to be underestimated.

Spark has the money and a digital outlet, TVNZ does the delayed free-to-air ... happy days.

But, if that is the model for the future, there will always be ads and lots of them because there is no free lunch. So stop moaning and get used to it.