Megan Hustwaite
Megan Hustwaite

Calm down. This is about TV programming — not gender

From a packed MCG and watershed day for women's sport to Australia's victory in the ICC T20 World Cup, Sunday was a day to remember. Then right on cue, like a perfectly timed Alyssa Healy cover drive, came the outrage.

As this historic spectacle unfolded on International Women's Day, some knickers were in a knot and the term "disgusting" was bandied around in response to the Nine Network screening the final, live and in HD, on its digital channel 9Gem.

Women's sport advocate and AFLW pioneer Susan Alberti told a pre-game MCC function "I think it's disgusting it is going to be on Gem and not on the main channel."

Of course this lit the outrage wick on social media, when really it was a storm in a tea cup being sipped on from the historic members stand.

There are dirty words in television but digital channel isn't one of them and it's about time people realise sport screened live on Gem, Go, 10Bold or 7Mate is a good thing.

It wasn't that long-ago sport - whether the ball was kicked, passed or hit - was shown on delayed telecast or the only way to see your team in action was on replay or via replayed highlights. Only the first session of an international cricket match would be shown against the gate, while some states wouldn't get any coverage, missing out altogether.

And live sport would be cut short for the flagship 6pm news. Remember when Melbourne Storm would win the NRL premiership in Sydney and the post-match ceremony would be bumped for the news? Now that was something worth booing about.

Katy Perry performs on stage with the Australian team after their victory in the ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup Final match between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Katy Perry performs on stage with the Australian team after their victory in the ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup Final match between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

This was the television landscape for sport when just five free to air channels existed.

Cricket, including last year's men's World Cup and Ashes series in England were screened on Gem, tennis, golf, netball et al can be shown in its entirety and in HD on digital channels and the best part? It's free! And accessible. For all!

The T20 women's final was shown live on both Gem and Fox Sports. This is about programming not gender.

These days, we are spoiled for choice with access via traditional television channels and live streaming. We literally don't need to miss a minute.

Imagine if the T20 World Cup final was shown on Nine's main channel then moved to 9Gem with the news and Married At First Sight promoted up the order? Frustrating and silly when there's an entire channel with zero commitments or distractions to showcase the event from the colourful pre-game Katy Perry entertainment to the final ball and trophy presentations.

The women's final netted 825,000 viewers nationally on 9Gem (531k metro) with cult program MAFS, which sees off all its opponents no matter what they offer up, did 976,000. Both channels netting Nine a 43 per cent share for the key Sunday evening slot.

Should the Tokyo Olympics go ahead it will be a feast for sports enthusiasts as Channel 7 say "across the screens of Seven." From its main channel to secondary digital channels 7Two and 7Mate plus competition aplenty streamed live across the 7Plus app. From the swimming to the table tennis, you can see it all.

Meg Lanning of Australia celebrates victory during the ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Meg Lanning of Australia celebrates victory during the ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Of course, the biggest sporting spectacle of them all will be smack, bang in the middle of the AFL season so flagship Friday night footy will be handballed over to a secondary channel. But guess what? You can still watch it! Nobody is making you go without your Round 20 fix of Adelaide Crows vs Richmond.

Last year, the big ANZAC Eve match between Richmond and Melbourne was screened on 7Mate and the world kept spinning.

Sunday was an incredible day for sport globally, not just women's sport. Sport period.

Aussies and sports mad Melburnians alike setting the benchmark, filling the 'G and laying down the gauntlet for other sporting codes. This is how you do it.

The bumper crowd of 86,174 smashing the highest attendance record for a women's sporting event in Australia and etching its way into the record books as the highest attendance for a women's cricket match globally.

Sunday was awe inspiring and it was for the pioneers who contributed and helped create the women's game as we know it today, it was for the Australian team who comprehensively defeated India and it was for the next generation of players, coaches, administrators and commentators who can dare to dream after seeing history in the making.

Let's not let a free to air channel or programming decision rain on our parade. It's just not cricket.

Megan Hustwaite is a columnist for RendezView.com.au

@MeganHustwaite



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