Sky Sports will increase its coverage of women’s sport after agreeing a new broadcast deal with England Netball to show domestic and international fixtures on the recently launched Mix channel.
The agreement with England Netball, the sport’s governing body, represents the biggest ever TV rights deal for netball in the UK and could help narrow the gulf in sponsorship revenue with male sports.
Sky Sports Mix will show all of England’s home Test matches and, for the first time, will air every match of the annual Quad series between England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The fact that the rights have been purchased by a pay TV broadcaster may not be enough to convince some critics that enough is being done to broaden the coverage of women’s sports.
England and Chelsea footballer, Eniola Aluko, has previously voiced her frustration at the lack of women’s sport available on free to air television channels, such as the BBC, pointing out that the lower audience base of pay TV broadcasters would continue to keep sponsors at bay.
Adrian Pettett, chief executive of Havas SE Cake, said that with few high-profile exceptions “sport sponsorship has been largely a men-only club”.
“Depending on whose figures you believe, between 0.5% and 5% of event sponsorship goes to women's sport,” said Pettett.
The BBC has been significantly reducing its spending on sports broadcast rights across the board and so Sky’s decision to invest in women’s netball represents a small step in the right direction, one which Pettett summed up as “more like a trend than just a blip”.
Joanna Adams, chief executive of England Netball, said the deal with Sky can be interpreted as a strengthening of its commitment to women’s sport.
Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, added: “Over the past few years netball has been a huge hit with our viewers and it is fantastic that more people than ever before will be able to watch it.
“Sky is an unrivalled supporter of women in sport and we really recognise what an important time this is for women’s sport.”
Sky’s coverage of women’s sport includes LPGA golf, including all five majors, international rugby, next year’s cricket World Cup and the weekly Sportswomen show.