Research produced by the Women’s Sport Trust shows women’s sport is reaching a community of fans in the UK, on TV and digital channels, who are more engaged than ever before. A record-breaking number of people also turned up to watch women’s sport live in the UK in 2023.

The average viewing time spent watching any women’s sport across Free-To-Air and pay-TV increased by 16%, year-on-year, to 10 hours and 7 minutes per person in 2023 (from 8 hours and 44 minutes in 2022).

The latest visibility research, with data and analysis from Futures Sport & Entertainment, also revealed a record-breaking broadcast reach in 2023 with 46.7m people tuning in to watch 1+ minute of women’s sport on linear TV – almost 1m more than the previous high in 2019.

This growth was replicated across digital with 25.7m streams of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 on BBC iPlayer and 15.6m streams on ITVX. On BBC iPlayer, this is a 75% increase on the Women’s World Cup 2019.

On social media, TikTok drove the biggest increase in video views with the Barclays Women’s Super League (BWSL) increasing 268% year-on-year to 150m views. This was higher than the NWSL and WNBA league accounts making the BWSL the leading domestic women’s league on TikTok.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the TikTok Women’s Six Nations (now Guinness Women’s Six Nations) saw an annual increase in views of 586% on the channel.

“This report points to unprecedented streaming numbers across digital alongside record video consumption for leading women’s sports competitions on social media channels,” said Tammy Parlour, CEO and co-founder of Women’s Sport Trust. “The industry needs to capitalise on these opportunities to drive further awareness and engagement, so we can continue to broaden the audience for women’s sports, and reach the fans where they are.”

In terms of who is watching women’s sport, it continues to attract a new audience. 15.6 million people watched the Women’s World Cup 2023 who didn’t watch women’s sport before the tournament. 43% of these new viewers went onto watch women’s sport after the tournament: 33% watched the Barclays Women’s Super League (BWSL), 12% watched the Solheim Cup and 9% watched The Hundred. 

Fans are also showing up in person to watch women’s sport in the UK. Additional data provided by Two Circles reveals that attendances at women’s sports events continue to grow – 2.6 million people attended a women’s sport event in 2023 compared to 2.1 million in 2022.

Data gathered by Women’s Sport Trust also shows that ticket purchasers tend to be younger and more female than those watching women’s sport on TV. For example:

  • For England international netball in 2023, 62% of tickets holders were under 45, up from 50% in 2019. The average age of a TV viewer was 55.
  • In the 2022-2023 season, over half (51%) of ticket holders for Arsenal FC were under 35, up from 45% on the 21/22 season.
  • 53% of ticket buyers for the Red Roses were female compared to 39% of those who watched it on linear TV.
  • Females made up 88% of ticket buyers for the England Jamaica netball series but only 50% of the linear TV viewing audience.

“Women’s sport is attracting more younger, female fans which is great news for the industry as it shows we are starting to attract a distinctive fanbase. The more we can understand the motivations driving their connection with live women’s sports, the more this will enable us to build richer experiences for them in and out of the stadium, and ultimately deepen their fandom,” concluded Parlour.

Additional highlights from the report include:

  • Football still dominates the consumption of women’s sport with 74% of viewing hours but other sports such as cricket (15%), rugby union (5%) and golf (3%) also play a part
  • Domestic sport consumption on TV declined by 5% in 2023 – from a high of 30.8 million people consuming 3+ minutes in 2022 to 29.2 million in 2023
  • The Final of the Women’s World Cup was the most watched women’s sport event on TV in 2023 with 38.4m viewing hours while day 3 of the Solheim Cup was the most watched on pay-TV (3.1m viewing hours)
  • BBC and ITV account for 11% of 2023 coverage hours of women’s sport but 77% of viewing hours
  • In 2023, 8% of TV coverage was for women’s sport – down from 13% in 2022
  • 5m people spent 2+ hours watching women’s sport on linear TV which is a similar number to the 21.7m in 2022. In comparison, 17.1m spent the same time watching ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and 14.8m for ‘I’m A Celebrity’.

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