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Equal Opportunities: Sky Sports on Taking Its Women's Super League Broadcasts to Premier League Levels

16/11/2021

Equal opportunities: Sky Sports on taking its Women's Super League broadcasts to Premier League levels By Heather McLean, Editor

Thursday, November 11, 2021 - 11:39

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The Women's Super League is now on Sky Sports, which is normalising' the game by upping the broadcast production and coverage to English Football League and Premier League levels

Following the Football Association's (FA) first standalone commercial broadcast deal for the Women's Super League (WSL) earlier this year, Sky Sports is creating never-seen-before coverage of the top tier of women's football.

The FA awarded a three-year contract to Sky Sports in March, starting from the current season of WSL. The deal marks the first time the women's game rights have resulted in the league and clubs making money in this way, significantly helping to boost the league.

It's really important for me to provide the same level of content, the same quality of broadcast, the same entertaining stories, the same editorial lines, and not just for our current Sky audience, but for a new audience, but also more importantly for the league and for the growth of women's football and women's sport

Sky Sports is showing 44 WSL matches per season across 22 match slots for the duration of the contract, plus an additional 13 games to be selected at its discretion. The BBC has 22 games, so one per match round broadcast live on free-to-air TV. Any remaining matches not selected for broadcast by the BBC or Sky are being shown live on the FA Player streaming service.

Speaking to SVG Europe about Sky Sport's aims for the WSL, Jennie Blackmore, the broadcaster's head of production for football and boxing, says: We've got a big commitment to women's sport in general. We've invested a lot of money and facilities in the netball that we've been doing over the last couple of years, and The Hundred, so any opportunity for us to take on more women's sport, we have been wanting to grab. The Women's Super League also obviously ties in really nicely with all the rest of our football rights. [We have an] ever-increasing pool of pool of football rights and it's something from a strategy point of view, from a production point of view, and from a content point of view that a lot of thought was put into.

Nia Wyn Thomas, senior producer for Sky Sports football on WSL, notes that the FA is dedicated to working with both Sky Sports and the WSL clubs to improve coverage of the women's game. This includes the roll out of new connectivity at every stadium concerned prior to the beginning of the season to allow Sky Sports to enhance the broadcast, use remote production, and be more sustainable in its strategy.

Thomas comments that Sky Sport's approach is more marathon than sprint: This is not a Cup Final; this is a three-year deal where we've got at least one game every single match round. It's about normalising WSL through the broadcast quality of this sport, and [doing that by] providing the same level of content and facilities and cameras angles, and chat and analysis [as for our other football coverage].

It's really important for me to provide the same level of content, the same quality of broadcast, the same entertaining stories, the same editorial lines, and not just for our current Sky audience, but for a new audience, but also more importantly for the league and for the growth of women's football and women's sport.

Sky Sports is giving the Women's Super League the same treatment as its top men's football, producing it in UHD HDR, increasing camera facilities on site to the level of its other football coverage, and increasing analysis tools

All-star treatment

To make sure the WSL got the all-star treatment, Sky Sports held Sky Labs sessions around it to develop the strategy for the game. Says Blackmore: From the moment we had the rights there were lots of Sky Labs sessions, which is where people come together from all parts of the business to say, how do we want to make this content bigger and better than it's ever been before?' That involves lots of different ideas from all parts of the business, not just content teams. [We ask] how we can get more eyeballs on this new strand.

Watching women's football is still entertaining; you can easily relate to a WSL player because on Instagram they are very social, they're very outgoing; they socialise amongst themselves, teammates, the opposition, and there's no showiness

One way [we decided to do this is by] making [WSL] in the same way that we make the rest of our football, not differentiating; producing it in UHD HDR, increasing camera facilities on site to the level of our other football coverage, increasing analysis tools that are used. Just not differentiating between the level of coverage between the women's and the rest of our football; giving it the Sky Sports feel, let's say, adds Blackmore.

Thomas says: From our point of view, football has always been football. And I think also from the Sky point of view, [WSL] was the missing piece of the puzzle. WSL was the one thing that Sky didn't have with regards to domestic football, and now you've got Premier League, English Football League's (EFL) League Cup, there's International, there's Scottish football. It all kind of builds quite nicely into that portfolio of football that Sky has got.

I think there's been a misconception that women's football isn't very good, so by putting it front and centre and by putting it on Sky and by normalising it and putting it on Sky Premier League, Sky football on Main Event on Sky Showcase, which was Sky One, it's there. If it's there, people will watch it, because if you are a football fan, you will watch football,
LINK: https://www.svgeurope.org/blog/headlines/equal-opportunities-sky-sport...
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