The news that Attitude Pictures has won the broadcast rights to the Winter Paralympics and will deliver 45 hours of live coverage plus daily highlights via its website isn't just great news for the company and for disabled athletes and their families and fans -- it's the shape of things to come.
When, two years ago, Sky TV offered minimal coverage of the London Paralympics, it couldn't have known that those games would be a breakthrough for the Paralympic movement. The broadcaster's reasoning was that such coverage simply isn't watched by many people.
As Sky's spokesperson Kirsty Way declared, if it was to provide more extensive coverage: "At the end of the day it means our viewers miss out on some other content they might like to watch, or the subscription fees need to go up higher." (I'm never sure whether she has a knack for coming off unsympathetically or it's just the nature of the job.)
Perhaps. But the probem was that Sky, as the default rights-holder, didn't get out of the way and let someone else have a crack. In the two years since, that has been fixed and, as Attitude producer Dan Buckingham notes in his blog:
For the duration of the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, we’ll have 45 hours of live content on AttitudeLive covering all the key events — a lot of it during the evening New Zealand time. These events will then be available on demand (just in case you miss it first time round!). You’ll also be able to watch daily highlights packages, as well as short films from our team on the ground giving you a real taste of the colour and atmosphere of the host city.
To help you find all this content, we’ve been busy creating a new section of AttitudeLive, dedicated to bringing you the latest from Sochi so you don’t miss a thing. We’ll let you know as soon as it goes live.
But there's more:
The other cool thing is we’ve partnered with TVNZ for this - they’ll be running news coverage and screening 3 half hour docos: 2 profiling our New Zealand athletes in the build up to the games, and a post games wrap up on Sunday 16th March. So you’ll really get to know our three contenders - Corey Peters, Carl Murphy and 2010 Gold Medalist Adam Hall.
This kind of partnership -- the niche webcaster delivers comprehensive coverage and the broadcast partner screens news, highlights and background programming -- is a logical one, and it speaks of an approach to cooperatation that hasn't been common in a business where rights have been tightly held, especially by Sky.
But it's realy the way that niche events like this can and should be covered. And as internet video edges closer to lounge viewing, it's probably going to become commonplace. I think Robyn Scott Vincent and her people deserves huge credit for getting out in front of it.
I gather that even with the support of NZ On Air (funding broadcast operations in Sochi) and ACC (covering some of the streaming costs) this is going to be a financial as well as logistical challlenge and that Attitude would welcome additional support.
But whatever happens, from March 7 to March 16, something different will being going on. Something good.