As the Barclays Women’s Super League draws to a close, the Women’s Sport Trust has revealed that the first four months of 2024 brought record TV viewing for women’s sport in the UK.*

The Women’s Sport Trust report, with data from Futures Sport & Entertainment, revealed that 20.9 million people watched 3 minutes or more of women’s sport coverage from 1st January to 30th April 2024, in comparison to 20.6 million in 2023. The increase was driven by more coverage hours on Pay TV channels like Sky Sports & TNT Sports, as well as more prominence on Free-To-Air channels like BBC One and ITV 1.

A third of these viewers (6.8m) were new to women’s sport this year, having not watched any  women’s sport in 2023.  The majority of those new viewers came from the increased Free-To-Air coverage of women’s football and rugby.

Increasing prominence also helped drive bigger audiences for the major head-to-head clashes in the Barclays Women’s Super League and encouraged people to watch these games for longer. A similar trend happened in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations where more viewers than ever tuned in across the tournament and the close title decider between France and England drew in an average audience of 1.3m (and a peak of 1.9m) on BBC One.

In the Barclays Women’s Super League (BWSL), shown on Sky and BBC, up to and including matches until 30th April: 

  • Live Viewing Hours were up 10% to 31.6m (Viewing Hours is a combination of hours broadcast and average viewers).
  • People are watching more with the average minutes viewed rising to 40 mins (up 3 mins year on year).
  • Viewing of the biggest games is growing. The number of people watching the Manchester Derby (Man City vs Man Utd) was up 7% on last year’s biggest game (Spurs v Arsenal), with an average of 813k tuning in. 
  • Viewers of BWSL Matches on BBC One have risen by 22% year on year. From 637k to 775k so far this
  • Sky’s returning strategy of simulcasting the games on its basic entertainment channels, Sky Showcase and Sky Max, also helped grow the overall audience (the average number of viewers is up 5% since simulcasting began at the start of November).

The FA Cup also shows an upward trajectory of viewers with the average audience of the rounds leading up to the final averaging 537k – an increase of 10% on last year’s 489k average. Initial viewing figures from Sunday’s final show a 3% year on year rise in live match time viewing with 1.194m people tuning in.

The Women’s Six Nations, shown on BBC:

  • Was the most viewed on record with 8.1m tuning in for 3 minutes or more (33% more than in 2023).
  • Viewing hours is also up, to a record 13m (from 10m last year). Helped by a strong tournament performance from England, competitive matches between Scotland and Wales and an exciting title-deciding final game (France vs England) with a prominent slot on BBC One. 
  • Games featuring England were especially popular, with a 42% rise in viewership year on year.

In addition to growing audiences, women’s sport is proving it can attract a new and diverse audience for broadcasters.

  • The Guinness Women’s Six Nations attracted a higher % of the desirable ABC1 audience to BBC One & BBC Two, compared to 2023.
  • The 2024 football Continental League Cup Final (Arsenal V Chelsea) has doubled the proportion of under-34s since 2022 (18% of those who watched on BBC Two were under 34).

Tammy Parlour, Women’s Sport Trust Chief Executive, said: “It’s been another strong start to the year for women’s sport. However, it is not a given that this will continue, particularly with the Lionesses not competing in a major women’s football tournament this year.  We’re still in a test-and-learn phase, and broadcasters are being rewarded for their decision to give women’s sport more airtime and greater prominence. With millions of new viewers still coming through we have clear evidence of a growing and engaged fanbase.”

Parlour concluded: “The Red Roses bringing in a peak of close to 2m on BBC One on a Saturday teatime proves its value. And with a record 813k people tuning in for the Manchester Derby in the BWSL, surpassing the viewing record for last year, we’re excited to see how the close finish between Man City and Chelsea in the BWSL title race helps drive audiences this weekend.”

A full look at the year to date will be released in a Women’s Sport Trust webinar on 27th June. This will include an in-depth look back on the Barclays Women’s Super League season, the Guinness Women’s Six Nations, WTA and ATP Tour and more.

Notes to editors:

*Women’s sport covers female specific properties, such as the FA WSL, The Women’s Hundred and the Netball Superleague. Men’s sport covers male specific properties, such as EPL, The Men’s Hundred and Formula 1. All other events, where both male and female athletes/teams are involved, are categorised as mixed, e.g., the Olympics and Wimbledon.

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