Seven plans to launch 7mate on channel 73, in time for the AFL Grand Final in September. The new channel will have a very blokey feel - running sport along with shows such as Family Guy, American Dad, Scrubs and My Name is Earl.
7mate will be a high-definition channel, screening the AFL and other programs in HD. As such, the new channel is only available to viewers with a HD tuner in their television, set top box or digital recorder.
But with spectrum at a premium, where will Network Seven find the bandwidth to launch a new high-def channel? PC Authority asked spokesman Simon Francis who told us the broadcaster intends to ditch its existing high-def channel, 7HD.
"7mate replaces 7HD, as this is all we can fit in our spectrum until 2013 or the end of analog," Francis told PC Authority.
"It will be broadcast as per 7HD currently is but will appear on channel 73. On Grand Final day 7mate will simulcast with Seven and then commence life as its own full time HD channel."
|The video teaser for Seven's new HD channel, 7mate
As such, programs currently broadcast on Seven's channel 70 in high-def will now only be available in standard-def on channel 7, unless they're blokely shows picked up by 7mate on channel 73. This spits in the eye of many Australians who have shelled out good money for HDTV equipment.
The move by Seven to ditch 7HD comes not long after the ABC abandoned its HD channel in favour of 24 news. Last year the Ten network also ditched Ten HD in favour of One HD - a new 24-hour high-def sports channel. The Nine Network is rumoured to be announcing a new channel, perhaps as early as today, which could also come at the expense of Nine's existing high-def channel.
So where does that leave Australians with big televisions who enjoy the crisper picture of high-def broadcasts? In the lurch, unless they're huge sports fans. Both Seven and Ten have ensured their major sports broadcasts are still simulcast on their HD channels, and Nine could be expected to do the same. Should Nine abandon its HD channel, that would leave SBS as the only major network with a HD simulcast of its primary channel.
After taking several years to embrace high definition programming - while encouraging viewers to do the same - it seems Australia's major networks are now determined to abandon HD viewers unless they want to crack open a beer, hang out with their mates and watch a lot of sport.