New Zealand netball fans are left behind by Games TV Feed

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netball

In the wake of the Silver Ferns winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games, a five-year study of our netball fans by Margaret Henley and Toni Bruce reveals they demand great broadcast coverage – and Birmingham failed to deliver.

Netball is a fast, skillful, tactical and psychologically intense sport. During live matches, the small size of the pitch allows fans to get up close, see the sweat, hear the exchanges between players and coaches and anticipate what’s next.

Our five-year study of netball fans in Aotearoa shows their passion for this female-defined and female-dominated sport. The fans are very knowledgeable and many have a wealth of experience as players, coaches, referees, administrators and supporters. They understand the complexity of the game. Many save for years to get to major events like the Commonwealth Games or World Cups.

They also know what they want in TV coverage. Our research repeatedly highlights that Kiwi netball fans expect much more than basic access to every second of play.

They appreciate having visual and audio access to how the various coaches run the game and instruct their players. Some even take notes to help them with their own coaching. Many enjoy watching off-the-ball interactions between opponents. Others help post commentary on public or private netball social media groups. Some are content to shout at the television to help with refereeing decisions and the precision of shots on goal.

Sadly, the latest TV coverage of the Commonwealth Games has failed to live up to these expectations, nor to the excitement, skill and pace of the sport. It doesn’t provide the subtle complexity and depth that New Zealand fans are used to.

Our comparative analysis of Sky NZ’s Commonwealth Games and ANZ Premiership broadcasts shows just how spoiled New Zealand fans have been in recent years. The analysis reinforces the belief of a member of Sky NZ’s production team, who told us in 2021 that netball coverage is “definitely here in New Zealand”.

This level of quality is ensured by “a core group of people who are passionate about netball and the dissemination of netball. We have some of the best cameramen who have covered netball and it also shows in the fact that we lead the world in terms of innovation with netball coverage as well.

Sky NZ’s coverage of the ANZ Premiership gave viewers an up close and personal view of the teams.

This passion and innovation means New Zealand viewers have layers of gaming storytelling that simultaneously educate more casual viewers and intensely engage highly informed fans. As the member of Sky’s production team pointed out, the expertise of New Zealand broadcasters “did not happen by chance”. Instead, it’s the product of “a lot of hard work and people understanding how to better tell the story on the ground; the competition for the ball and the competition without the ball.

It is truly a shame that an event which should be an international showcase for the sport did not do more to maximize the game’s visual and sonic potential. Netball at these Games appeared slow and boring, with most of the game being presented from a wide shot in the center looking at the players, which distorts the real speed and intensity.

During the pool matches we analyzed, coach and team benches were almost always shown in distant wide shots, and crowd cutaways often focused on random fans with no clear team affiliation. There was no image of the off-the-ball maneuvers and intense teamwork that happened when the ball was out of play. Full-screen replays often meant viewers missed the first phase of play from the pass central.

Following the weekend’s games to decide the gold medal play-off, fans on social media expressed their frustration at missing key moments of the game. One wrote: “So boring! I was screaming at the TV!” Many agreed with the person who wrote, “Wish the cameraman would keep the camera on the game.” Another said, “It was terrible the whole tournament.

Our analysis showed no use of technology that added nuance and complexity to the narrative of the game, such as pitch-level Steadicam or fixed remote cameras with clear audio at each team bench. Even the production options available were not always maximized. We haven’t seen any examples of the raised front camera being used to expand the variety of angles shown during gameplay.

Sky Sport NZ netball presenters Goran Paladin, Courtney Tairi and Kruze Tangira. Photo: Suzanne McFadden.

We missed other storytelling features built into Sky’s ANZ Premiership coverage, such as the split-screen ‘Coach Cam’ focusing on each manager, and box inserts that allow viewers to simultaneously watch the action live and replays or close-ups and coach audio. . These not only add layers of narrative depth to the game show, but they also inject personality and capture the growing levels of off-and-on-field contestation with each quarter.

Broadcasting on this global level requires a production van packed with technical firepower similar to that used by Sky in Aotearoa, so we don’t understand why viewers are subjected to such unexciting and distant footage.

Fortunately, Friday morning’s pool game between England and New Zealand featured closer footage and sound of the coaches shot with a handheld camera, quicker cuts between players after a successful goal and a combination of camera angles in highlights and replay edits.

The Data: Diffusion Bias in the England v New Zealand Pool Game

Type of shot

England (#)

New Zealand (#)

Reruns

11

5

Coaches/players bench

15

8

Crowd

33

seven

Despite being a global TV feed, we noted a strong tendency to build the narrative of the game from host country England. Coverage of the Silver Ferns pool clash against English Roses showed 11 replays in England to the Silver Ferns’ five, and the crowd photos were overwhelmingly English fans. England’s coaching bench has also received much more attention.

We don’t understand why Commonwealth Games broadcasts haven’t utilized more storytelling options with the production tools at their disposal. We wonder about the experience level of England-based broadcasters with the speed and uniqueness of netball, which is played mostly outside of the main broadcast centers in Europe and North America.

How much more insight into the psychological tension of the game would be added by a series of quick cuts between opposing players, rather than the reactions of a single team? What more could we learn about game strategy from quality footage and crisp audio from the coaches’ and teams’ benches? Wouldn’t it be great to watch reruns of box insertions without losing sight of the live action?

Whatever the reason, from what we’ve seen so far in Birmingham, global audiences have been treated to an ill-fitting and unimaginative production that’s unlikely to attract new fans and doesn’t do justice to the gripping possibilities. , physical and emotional impact of netball. .

We don’t believe this level of coverage is enough for a major women’s sport played by over 20 million people in 80 countries, mostly within the Commonwealth family of nations.

Perhaps we should have magically transported our Sky NZ netball production team to Birmingham to provide a masterclass in how a complex game like this could and should be broadcast.

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