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2021 on track to beat records for women’s sport audiences

LONDON, UK, 28th October — Today, leading women’s sports charity, the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) reveals 2021 is on track to beat all records for broadcast audience of women’s sport in the UK, growing from 46.8m in 2019 to an estimated 51.1m by the end of this year – a significant increase on the 27.3 million achieved in 2020 when COVID-19 had a significant negative impact on the visibility of women’s sport.

The research, conducted by Futures Sport, looks at the UK’s consumption of women’s sport, men’s sport and mixed sport and details how the media exposure and consumption of women’s sport has changed throughout 2021.

2021 is on track to be a record year for women’s sport UK TV audiences, driven mostly by the introduction of The Hundred and the new broadcast deal for the FA Women’s Super League, bucking the previous trend of women’s sport audiences being driven by major international events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The research also showed that gender parity of coverage was being achieved in broadcast for both established events like the Olympic Games and Wimbledon, as well as new properties like The Hundred.

Tammy Parlour, CEO and Co-Founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, commented on the findings: “We’ve always known the positive impact global events like the Olympics, Paralympics and Wimbledon have on gender parity of both coverage and viewership.

“However it is great to see the change that’s happening as other women’s sporting events start to gain traction. This trend now needs to become a habit so they keep coming back on a regular basis and build greater emotional connections with the leading female teams and athletes.

“With major global events in 2022 like the Women’s Cricket World Cup, events for women’s rugby union and rugby league, and the Women’s Euros, alongside growing domestic properties like the Women’s Super League and The Hundred, we hope that women’s sport can build on the momentum it has generated this year and attract new commercial partners to take advantage of the opportunity to achieve purpose and profit.”

Other highlights from the research included:

  • Coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games achieved gender parity in both coverage and viewership, with the Women’s Sport Trust research showing that 47% of total audio mentions on BBC’s live linear broadcast coverage were about female stars, compared to 44% of medalists being female and 53% of Team GB athletes being women.
  • The BBC’s Wimbledon coverage saw more ladies’ singles matches on BBC One than men’s singles (34 v 30), although more men’s games were shown on BBC Two during the Championships (50 v 43).
  • 47% of total live coverage hours of The Hundred, across BBC and Sky, were dedicated to the women’s game, with women’s matches generating 36% of live viewing hours across both broadcasters. 6 out of the top 10 most watched women’s cricket matches in the UK on record are from The Hundred, with the opening match the most watched women’s cricket match ever in the UK. In addition, 4.3 million people who watched the Women’s Hundred had not watched any live coverage of England v India earlier this year and of these viewers, 666,000 went on to watch three minutes or more of England Women v New Zealand in September, accounting for 16% of the overall unique reach for the series.
  • The WSL broadcast deal has had a massive impact on viewing figures, already bringing 7.87m new viewers in the early stages of the season. 89% of viewers who have watched the WSL on BBC and / or Sky had not watched any WSL coverage on BT Sport in the previous four seasons.

However the research highlighted that women’s sport still needs to address building greater habit and repeat viewership.

When looking at the % of viewers, based on 3 minute reach, who watched a property on more than one occasion, women’s sport lags behind men’s sport at present.

45% of the Women’s Hundred audience watched the competition on television on more than one occasion, in comparison to 31% during the WSL season in 2020/21, although this figure has already risen to 33% during the 2021/22 season. This compares to 55% for the Men’s Hundred, 57% for Premiership Rugby during the 2020/21 season and 87% for the Premier League last season.

A full copy of the research is available for download below. A podcast discussing the research will also be available from Friday 29th October on the Unofficial Partner Podcast.

Watch the full presentation and panel debate here:

PowerPoint slides can be downloaded using the form below.