Making Volleyball Better on Television


by @DavidAPortney

We all watch TV.

Some watch it more than others. Some watch programs they don’t like to admit as a change of pace to their everyday lives (guilty with that one), and some just leave the TV programmed to sports 24/7. No matter your television preferences, how often have you stumbled across a volleyball match? If I posed this question as recently as a few years ago, odds are you’d have an easier time remembering what you had for breakfast last Tuesday. Thankfully, times have changed. As we look ahead to the 2014 fall season, there will be hundreds of matches on the tube with even more web streamed live online.

“I think it’s the best time we’ve ever had,” said Pac-12 Networks volleyball broadcaster Kevin Barnett. “That’s certainly true collegiately and internationally with the proliferation of sports channels and the need for content. Collegiate volleyball in this country has grown so much, I think there is a tremendous amount of interest on the fans side that hasn’t been there before.”

The 2014 AVCA Grant Burger Media Award winning Pac-12 Networks is leading the way with 96 scheduled televised matches this season. With the numbers increasing every year, as a volleyball community we can no longer be content with the fact we’re on TV, but how the broadcasts themselves are evolving.

Barnett, who also hosts a weekly volleyball podcast called The Net Live, believes the people in charge of the broadcasts have become a lot more volleyball savvy and it’s shown. Working with producers, directors and other broadcasters, he sees first-hand how their mind set has advanced by simply gaining more experience in the space.
However, he feels there is still plenty of room for improvement. Here are just three important topics to discuss that Barnett feels could make better volleyball on TV: camera angles, replay and viewer education.

Camera Angles
“Show more end zone. Stick with the end zone camera for a while for maybe a few points. Sure, you might miss something that happened on the other side of the net, but you can always go back and replay that. This is why coaches sit there. Why are they [sitting there]? Let’s take a look at that.”

Should there be more? Less? Low angle or high angle? Should we hold up play on the court to show a replay on TV? Every sport uses replay and has for quite some time, but the real progression in that space has come in the form of camera technology.
“We need more high speed cameras. When you do show replays, it’s really good because it slows down the ball contact, the touches on the block and those kinds of things that show the hitter make a choice at the last millisecond to decide to crank the ball line. I don’t think the amount of replays are missing, it’s the camera technology that can show the game in its minute detail. “

Viewer Education
“We can stop explaining the game. Nobody tells me if a guy shoots behind that arc it’s worth three points. I think volleyball’s been on for enough years we don’t need to explain the rules. We don’t explain the libero a lot anymore, which is good. The Olympics on NBC could be different because you’ll get a lot of viewers who don’t normally watch the sport.”

This is one of my favorite debates. There are a lot of aspects and nuances of volleyball to explain that the casual sports fan won’t understand, but we also don’t want to “talk down” to them and the ones that already know volleyball well. Granted, every coach understands the three meter line, but a sports broadcast is not solely intended for that sport’s coaches. It’s a fine line between too much explanation and leaving a viewer in the dark. Finding that line takes experience, so I’m confident we’ll get there sooner than later.

For any of these topics it’s important to remain open-minded and make your voice heard. So shoot me an email ( or hit us up on Twitter (@AVCAVolleyball) and Facebook and let me know what thoughts you have on anything volleyball on TV.

No matter where you stand, make sure you tune in!

(image courtesy Wisconsin Badgers)


About dportmedia

As of early 2018, I’m re-branding this blog page to hopefully shed some light on the how and why we’re seeing what we’re seeing on all media platforms. I don’t profess to have all of the answers, but hopefully we can have meaningful and cordial discourse on the topics most relevant to all of us. The goal is to make this 75% on sport media and 25% current events and politics. Follow me on Twitter @DavidAPortney
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