The Daily Juggle
The Daily Juggle
Why televising women's sport matters
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I was fortunate to be seated in a courtside box yesterday at Allphones Arena in Sydney to witness our most successful national team, the Australian Diamonds, defeat their toughest international opponents, New Zealand's Silver Ferns, by a record margin of 20 points.
It was an historic win for the Australian netball team in the third test in the 2012 Holden Netball Quad-Series. It was also an important win as this was the first time the Diamonds had played the Silver Ferns since losing the Constellation Cup by just one point last month. The arena was packed to the rafters with girls and women, some of whom had brought their partners, fathers and brothers. Many were sporting green and gold face paint and wigs. I felt an enormous sense of pride at the sight of a stadium turned gold as almost everyone there dressed to support the Diamonds.
I love seeing young girls cheering for their sporting heroes. Girls and young women looking up to females for their skills and achievements rather than what they look like is an important stage in developing a culture that celebrates female achievement in all endeavours. We need this now more than ever as the momentum gathers in intensity to right many gender imbalances in our community.
I have two sons so I have spent many afternoons and evenings at football stadiums and cricket grounds over the years. Yesterday the Diamonds fans matched the passion of those events, goal for goal, without the fear of violence.
It's not until you attend a Diamonds game that you truly understand why there are a million Australian women devoted to this sport. It's fast and furious. Any mistake can be costly. I have departed many a match with chewed-down fingernails.
So for the five years that I have been on the Netball Australia Board I have been at a loss to understand why the free-to-air networks haven't fully embraced this sport. There is a general belief that there isn't a large enough audience for it. And yet as I drove home from the game yesterday listening to the post mortem on the ABC there were many who were questioning why they weren't able to watch the game live.
The networks broadcast live the often disappointing displays by out-of-form male ball sports, but apart from the gold medal netball match of the Commonwealth Games in 2010, which most commentators agreed was the team match of the Games, it has been virtually impossible to watch an international game of netball as it is being played, free. Given that netball is the most popular sport for women, this really is a disgrace.
Fox Sports took up the baton to televise the tests, after an ailing Ten Network let the netball broadcasts go following a rethink of their One HD strategy. Like an increasing number of dads, including MMM's Gus Worland and Mark Geyer and interim NRL CEO Shane Mattiske, Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein watched the game courtside with his daughters yesterday. His Foxtel subscribers were the only group able to access the broadcast live on their television screens. Telstra subscribers could view the game live on their smart phones, computers and tablets, due to an online partnership with netball.
But if you don't subscribe to Telstra or Foxtel and were unable to get to the Sydney test yesterday, you would have been left wondering why the television networks still don't see you as a valuable viewer in 2012.
The game's major sponsors have achieved real commercial benefits from their association. We know that women are the decision makers for many household purchases and the netball community has significantly increased their purchase of San Remo pasta, for example, since the company started sponsoring the sport.
So to the decision makers at the major free-to-air networks, I say this:
- Don't give us the excuse that netball is boring. Golf is televised.
- Don't keep hiding behind what you think the viewer numbers will be. When you are prepared to promote netball games with the same intensity that the rugby league gets then we can compare apples with apples.
- Don't say there's no advertising revenue in it. Every marketer knows that most of the purchasing decisions are made by women and netball has many long-term, satisfied partners.
Have we finally run out of excuses?
Do you think it's unfair that women's sport isn't broadcast on free-to-air television?