|Netball has found innovative ways to gain visibility across an array of platforms. In our recent report, Content is Queen report; Digital Lessons from Women's Sports, the International Netball Federation (INF) Chief Executive, Clare Briegal explains how they have overome obstacles to creating and distributing women’s sports content.|
Securing net gains
Briegal points to the 2019 Netball World Cup as a prime example of how both broadcasters and rights holders can maximise the reach of their content. In the UK, the tournament was covered by BBC and pay-TV giant Sky Sports, which opted to stream the competition for free on the video-sharing platform YouTube.
“It was broadcast exclusively by Sky for the first three days,” Briegal begins, “but they made a strategic decision that they wanted to grow their audience, so they actually ran it on their YouTube channel - it was effectively free-to-air. That was a great move because their objective was to grow their audience for the Superleague for next year.”
Meanwhile, in markets where the INF did not find a broadcast partner for the tournament, the governing body launched its own free global OTT platform and app to ensure netball fans around the world were able to watch the action.
“We sold the international broadcast rights, so we had a partner, Lagardère, on board with that,” Briegal explains. “They sold into certain key territories, but in dark markets where there was no sensible commercial margin, we then had our mobile phone app which was the OTT service, so that was the streaming product.
“That was a strategic view. We need some income which is significant for netball in those key territories, but we want to grow the audience size, and we want to make sure that those netballers around the world that are living in a non-netball country can have access to the games.”
Beyond World Cups though, when there is typically less interest from broadcasters outside of netball’s strongholds, the INF has sought to ensure that its events are reaching as wide an audience as possible. For the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana, for example, Briegal reveals that the INF worked with Botswana Televisions to stream the entire tournament on Facebook, securing “millions and millions of eyeballs” for an under-21 event.
Pivoting for long-term growth
Going forward, Briegal expects that strategy to remain the same. “I think so,” she says when asked whether the INF will continue to make extensive use of digital and social distribution. “Our audience, the majority are female, and they’re of the right age group, so these are people that are using their mobile phones a lot - they’re not necessarily sitting down and consuming sport in front of a television, so it fits our demographic to use.”
And that opportunity - to engage a huge audience at a low cost - is one that other women’s sports should take advantage of. “The barriers to entry for digital are so much lower that there will be more, and more sports doing it and at a lower level,” Briegal declares.
“Certainly, from a netball perspective, more leagues consider live streaming. Even if they are not professional leagues, they have the ability to actually live stream, to do it on Facebook. It’s easy, you can do it from a mobile phone. You can do an awful lot without too much investment these days if you’re going to broadcast through YouTube or through Facebook.”
For more insider insights from industry leaders at The FA and COPA90 download our exclusive report: Content is Queen; Digital Lessons From Women's Sports.