Suncorp Super Netball – Television broadcast is rubbish and fans switching off in droves

Netball fans are continuing to vent their frustration at netball’s new television deal, which has seen two games hidden away every week on Telstra TV and the other two infused with advertisements, poor commentary and tacky fan treatment over on 9Gem.

The ratings suggest this to be the case too, with week on week metropolitan audience figures heading south in worrying signs for a sport competing for vital space in such a crowded winter sporting market. This includes struggling to keep pace with the NAB AFL Women’s League, which is continuing to go from strength to strength.

Last weekend saw a metro audience of 56,000 people tune into watch the Melbourne Vixens take on the West Coast Fever and 66,000 for the following game between the Sunshine Coast Lightning and Giants. These are well down on opening round metro figures (see below) and even if they were to stabilise at this figure now, surely the sport should be aiming higher.

To put that in perspective the AFLW game between Adelaide and Melbourne on Saturday Night, which went head to head with Suncorp Super Netball Game 8 had an metro audience of 144,000 across the country.

All figures courtesy of Mediaweek Australia.

A quick glance at social media tells you that fans are not happy and there are common reasons as to why.

Watching netball through standard definition is making the sport look extremely 1990’s. I can barely think of a sport now that you cannot watch in high-definition. It makes the use of new sideline camera technology pointless, as the vision is not clear enough to make proper use of it. Saturday night on Channel Nine is a NRL free zone, so why not throw netball on the main HD channel? Nine talk up the product so much across the network, that it is time to put their money where their mouth is. Even if games are shifted to Nine’s main channel in the states of the two team’s playing.

On Saturday night Channel Seven put the AFLW game between Adelaide and Melbourne on its main channel in Adelaide and 7Mate across the rest of the country. That has to be the minimum standard for netball to follow. Also annoying are commercial breaks during tactical time outs. This is a prime moment to zoom in on what the coach is saying, not crossing to an ad. This does nothing to bring fans closer to the action.

9Gem’s assumption that everybody watching does not know the rules of the game is also frustrating. Netball is not a new sport, it has been around for years and the broadcast does not need to belittle the audience. Do they really think they are going to attract new people to the sport under the current television deal? What other sport do you hear dumbing down rules to explain it to viewers? I would love to know anyone who has gone out and brought Telstra TV, because they had never tuned into netball before and wanted to give it a go. Let the product do the talking.

What makes this lack of care for the sport most frustrating under the new arrangement is that the product on court is as good as it has ever been. After four weeks, it is becoming clear that the West Coast Fever and the Adelaide Thunderbirds are struggling after having their squads from last season severely depleted. However, the remaining six teams are providing some cracking action and are all wonderful advertisements for the sport. It is just such a shame that more people are not able to see it and when they do manage to find ways to tune in, the broadcast lets them down.

This is the first of a five-year broadcast deal for netball in this country, so unfortunately for netball fans, there is no end in sight. Let’s just hope some of the other feedback in regards to the television product is taken on board and soon. If it is not, I really fear for the future of the sport.

Picture – Suncorp Super Netball

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