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 excellent broadcast coverage – and Birmingham failed to deliver. 

Netball is a fast, skillful, tactical and psychologically intense sport. At live games, the small size of the court allows fans to get in close, to see the sweat, to hear player and coach exchanges and anticipate what’s coming next.

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

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

They value having visual and audio access to how different 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 contribute running commentary on public-facing or private netball social media groups. Some just shout at the television to assist with umpiring decisions and goal shooting accuracy.

Unfortunately, the latest Commonwealth Games broadcast coverage hasn’t done justice to these expectations, or to the excitement, skill and pace of the sport. It isn’t providing the subtle complexity and depth New Zealand fans have become accustomed to.

Our comparative analysis of the Commonwealth Games and Sky NZ’s ANZ Premiership broadcasts shows how spoiled New Zealand fans have been in recent years. The analysis reinforces the belief of a Sky NZ production crew member, who told us in 2021 that netball coverage is “unrivalled here in New Zealand without a doubt.”

This level of quality is provided by “a core crew of people who are passionate about netball and about broadcasting netball. We have got some of the best camera operators who have covered netball and it is also shown in the fact that we are leading the world in terms of innovation with the netball coverage as well.”

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

This passion and innovation means New Zealand viewers are provided with layers of game narrative that simultaneously educate more casual viewers and intensely engage highly-informed fans. As the Sky production crew member pointed out, the New Zealand broadcasters’ expertise “hasn’t come about by accident.” Instead, it’s the product of “a lot of hard work and people understanding how to better tell the story on court; the competition for the ball and the competition off the ball.”

It’s a real pity that an event that should be an international showcase for the sport hasn’t done more to maximise the visual and aural potential of the game. The netball at these Games has appeared slow and boring, with most of the game presented from a centre wide shot looking down on the players, which misrepresents the actual speed and intensity. 

During the pool matches we analysed, 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 were no images of the off-ball manoeuvring and intense teamwork happening when the ball was not in play. Full-screen replays often meant that viewers missed the first phase of play from the centre pass.   

In the wake of the weekend’s matches to decide the gold medal play-off, fans on social media vented their frustration at missing key moments in the game. One wrote, “So annoying! I was screaming at the TV!” Many agreed with the person who wrote, “I wish the camera person would keep the camera on the game.” Another announced, “It’s been terrible all tournament.”

Our analysis showed no use of technology that added nuance and complexity to the game narrative, such as court-level Steadicam or fixed remote cameras with clear audio at each team bench. Even the available production options were not always maximised. We saw no examples of the elevated end-on camera being used to extend the variety of angles shown during game play.

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

We missed other storytelling features that are embedded in Sky’s ANZ Premiership coverage, such as the split-screen ‘Coach Cam’ focused on each coach, and box inserts that allow viewers to simultaneously watch live action and replays or close-ups and audio of coaches. These not only add layers of narrative depth to the televised game, but they also inject personality and capture the escalating levels of contestation off and on the court through each quarter.

Broadcasting at this global level requires a production van filled with technical firepower similar to what Sky uses in Aotearoa, so we don’t understand why viewers are subjected to such unexciting and distant images.

Thankfully, Friday morning’s pool match between England and New Zealand featured some closer images and audio of the coaches shot with a handheld camera, more rapid cuts between players following a successful goal, and a combination of camera angles in highlights and replay montages.  

The data: Broadcast bias in England v NZ pool match

Type of Shot

England (#)

New Zealand (#)




Coach/Player Bench






Despite it being a global television feed, we noted a strong bias towards building the game narrative of the host country, England. Coverage of the Silver Ferns v English Roses pool clash showed 11 England replays to five for the Silver Ferns, and crowd shots overwhelmingly featured English fans. The England coaching bench also received much more attention.

We don’t understand why the Commonwealth Games broadcasts haven’t employed more storytelling options with the production tools available to them. We wonder about the England-based broadcasters’ level of experience with the speed and uniqueness of netball, which is predominantly played outside the major broadcasting centres of Europe and North America.

How much more insight into the psychological tension of the game would be added by a series of rapid cuts between opposing players, rather than the reactions of just one team? How much more could we learn about game strategy from quality images and crisp audio of coach and team benches? How wonderful would it be to watch box insert replays without losing sight of the live action?

Whatever the reason, from what we’ve seen so far in Birmingham, the global audience has been given an ill-fitting, unimaginative production unlikely to attract new fans and doesn’t do justice to the gripping, physical and emotionally impactful possibilities of netball.  

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

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

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