No doubt passionate debate will be stirred by Channel Seven’s first up effort at covering the Melbourne Cup. Here’s our reasonably positive assessment, followed by a damning critique from a Crikey subscriber. But first, let’s just put this in perspective:

While the international racing world knows we exist, those promoting the race get carried away with quoting all manner of stats to support its stature as a major international sporting event. Crikey thought it might be interesting post race to take the pulse of the international media online.

Yesterday Bruce McAvaney told us 700 million people around the world would be watching the race. You can bet not many of them were clambering out of the freezing UK/Irish beds well before the crack of dawn to watch it live on whatever channels were showing it. As for the rest of the world they must have been seeing it via news bulletins!

In Ireland it was hardly front-page news either. Instead dickhead Manchester United skipper Roy Keane and his media mates were much bigger sporting news for helping to induce the resignation of national soccer manager Mick McCarthy.

So heres my scorecard based on visiting various websites yesterday after all major overseas press had sufficient time to publish.

IRISH INDEPENDENT: Strangely appeared to be Melbourne cup free zone in sports section. Perhaps they only update their web site the following working day.

IRISH TIMES: In sports section it was bottom item of eight stories in OTHER SPORT. It was only second lead item in their Racing section.

RTE: Online national Radio/TV (our ABC) gave it best exposure with decent story on Welds triumph.

All up the Irish media reaction seemed strangely muted or more likely totally blown out of the water by the Mick McCarthy resignation.

In the UK the coverage was a little better.

DAILY (SPORTS) TELEGRAPH: As to be expected from recent years they had it as their lead Racing story courtesy of their influential Aussie correspondent J.A. McGrath who filed.
Weld strikes again.

The GUARDIAN UNLIMITED: Buried as small three-par story in horse racing section as WELDS WONDER IRELAND LIFTS CUP. Not listed in their sporting index as stand alone story.

THE INDEPENDENT: Lead race story on their sports home page with Puzzle triumphs as Europe holds sway.

BBC SPORTS ONLINE: Carried best web coverage of all international media with minimum of two stories as well as audio and archive material.

JAKARTA POST and NEW YORK POST: Nothing online.

USA TODAY: Not one of 8 international racing stories.

Verdict: Even for specialist racing sporting sections internationally, the Melbourne Cup appears to project an underwhelming presence. Which only goes to show while it might stop our nation, it would appear the rest of the world hardly gives a toss!

Ends

With new boys Channel Seven lining up for their first stab at Cup coverage, punters will no doubt have strong on opinions on how good the TV broadcast was.

Here’s what we wrote in our subscriber email the morning after the big event:

CUP DAY A WINNER FOR KERRY STOKES

Expect to see Channel Seven score a ratings bonanza for its coverage of the Melbourne Cup.

The telecast, anchored by Bruce McAvaney, showed up Network Ten’s performance over the past decade as mediocre. Seven has taken the coverage of horse racing in Australia to new heights, even outperforming the former leading racing network, Nine.

The network got most of its key personnel spot on. And as for the fairytale Cup ending, the triumph of the Irish raiders and a grieving Damien Oliver is a script not even the team at Home & Away could have written.

Kerry Stokes, who outlaid big bucks to outbid Ten for the long-term telecast rights, must have been thanking his lucky stars as the days drama played out perfectly on his network.

Highlights of Seven’s coverage included:

*McAvaney demonstrating his encyclopaedic knowledge of racing – but refraining from showing off. Compare this with Tim Webster, who as Ten’s anchor was more than willing to show off his abject ignorance of racing in particular and sport in general;

*Trainer Richard Freedman providing expert analysis without the amateurish bluster provided by his predecessor, Herald racing hack Max Presnell;

*Professional punter Sean Bartholomew, who overcame early wooden presentation to tip viewers a string of winners from the betting ring with authority.

There was some downside:

Word is that Brisbane race-caller Wayne Wilson will not be invited back next year. His call of the Cup was serviceable, if a little hysterical at the finish, and he failed to call any of the place-getters behind the winner until well after the field passed the winning post, leaving punters not on Media Puzzle exasperated. His handling of the tricky straight sprint races was pretty ordinary, too, calling the wrong winner on one occasion, an absolute no-no.

Expect Melbourne’s Bryan Martin or Sky Channel’s Greg Miles to take over the calling duties next Spring Carnival.

There were two clangers. Andrew Daddo (or was it Lachy, or Cameron…?) put in embarrassing, shameless plugs for fat-free bickies, and the EP crossed to outrider John Letts too early after the race, catching him telling Damien Oliver to speak with more emotion.

Seven would be wise to dump Letts and replace him with Simon Marshall, who is better on-air talent and enjoys genuine rapport with the jockeys.

Hopefully, Bruce will be well enough to anchor coverage of Oaks Day and Stakes Day. He looked decidedly off-colour yesterday, but plugged away commendably.

– Ends –

Our reasonably upbeat assessment obviously rankled “Track Watcher”, who let rip thus:

Seven’s coverage was shite

“The article on Channel Seven doing a good job is tripe.

Saying they did a good job of the carnival is the same as congratulating a station for putting on an excellent coverage of the AFL pre-grand final entertainment and then stuffing up the call of the game itself.

Yes, McAvaney was 1000 per cent better than Tim Webster, but that goes without saying. Yes, Richard Freedman was very good and thankfully they had Peter Donegan over the carnival who is terrific.

And Sean Bartholomew was exceptionally good, particularly on Derby Day.

But surely coverage of the Melbourne Cup carnival comes down to the handling of the big race itself and Seven’s handling of the race was appalling and woefully inadequate.

Wayne Wilson’s call was dismal, if your money was riding on anything other than Media Puzzle in the last 600m, then you had bugger all idea of what was going on.

There is no doubt that Damien Oliver was the biggest story and it was forgivable to get carried away with the emotion. But no race-caller worth his salt would then forget to run through the runners of a Melbourne Cup and give listeners a summary of where the horses came in.

Even worse – it took a phone call to the switchboard of Channel Seven to find out who ran last.

Again, no race-caller worth his salt would ever finish his call of the Melbourne Cup without giving the four most important results, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and STONE, MOTHERLESS LAST – the four results that every Cup Sweep in the country pays out on.

We have been spoiled by excellent callers in Melbourne and the super-smooth, ultra-professional Bryan Martin on 927 would never have forgotten what he was taught in Race-calling Lesson 101 no matter how much emotion.

It wasn’t just Wilson’s call – surely the producers at Seven were asleep on the job.

We watch Bruce on Saturday and Sunday and watch as the scores of everything from the Colac Tiddlywinks final to the results of the East Zanzibar-North Zanzibar pre-season lacrosse friendly (Norths by 3 for those interested) scoot continuously across our screen.

Surely the least they could have done is find 30 seconds in the first 20 minutes after the Cup to actually run the placings from 1-24 across our screens?

If that was not bad enough, instead of actually running through the list, Channel Seven then go straight off into an embarrassing series of fluff and crap highlighted by those appalling advertorials that were the most embarrassing thing I have seen on a telecast of a major sporting event.

You can’t expect anyone to take your presenters seriously in anything they do across the viewing week if you try and hide ads as editorial. If you don’t have any delineation between the fluff your presenters do as “editorial” and exactly the same sort of stuff they do as an ad with the only difference being they are carrying a packet of some naff chips or doing the interviews next to a coffee machine then you will increase your credibility with advertisers and destroy it with viewers.

Then again, there isn’t an ad rep in the country who actually reads the editorial or watches the product in between the ads so they wouldn’t know that people that do actually get pissed off when taken for complete and utter mugs.

They should have at least been honest with that coffee advertorial with their alleged stars (ie Kimberley Joseph – who is famous apparently).

They all stand next to a really, really subtle product placement of a coffee machine and poor Frances McDonald (who is a good operator and does know a thing or two about racing) is forced to ask a series of Seven stars for their impressions of the day.

I was waiting for one to say: “Look the day is big but not as big as this blue coffee machine standing next to me. Did I mention the coffee machine? I thought the coffee machine was bloody unlucky to take out the second race when it ran out of steam with a furlong to go but then it did back up beautifully, taking out the third heat of the Fashions on the Field. Doesn’t it look beautiful (sweeping hand a la Adriana directed towards bashful coffee machine) I think it was the subtlety of the Godolphin-blue outfit and the really, really, big brand name on the front that took the judge’s eyes. It’s pretty hard to miss.”

I have never watched a Ten telecast of the RACE itself and sat there for the next 20 minutes wondering where my horse ran and which horse ran last.

I cried when Damien won (and not just because I lost money) – it was one of the great moments in Australian sport – a really emotional moment to see a champion jockey and champion bloke win out. It was great TV but instead of being elated we ended up being totally frustrated by Seven’s post-race efforts.

So by all means pay tribute (and rightly so) to the good work of McAvaney, Freedman and Bartholomew but all the glitz and glam and colour and movement in the world is useless if it means you ignore the most basic and essential elements of the great race itself – and what at the end of the say the people who waged $100m+ want to know.

Track Watcher”

– Ends –

Over to you, punters.

Peter Fray

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