Women's Sports Growing On TV, Streaming - But Have A Way To Go

If desperate linear TV networks -- and local TV stations -- believe live sports is the main programming content draw that will keep viewers staying around, why not expand our vision of that content?

So, in that regard, where do women's sports fit in?

Apparently, there is some movement here. Women's sports now comprises 15% of all U.S. sports media coverage, according to new research by The Collective, a female-focused practice within Wasserman, a sports and entertainment representation company.

That may not sound like much, but consider that for years it remained at a more microscopic level -- around 4%.

What is driving all this new focus and attention on women's sports? Social media and streaming. 



According to the study, an average of 26% of streaming sports coverage has been dedicated to women’s programming since 2018 -- over 4,000 hours annually. Social-media accounts have dedicated over 18% of their sports posts to women's sports in 2022. 

Looking more specifically at sports networks focused on women's sports, the Pac-12, ACC Network, ESPNU and SEC Network garnered the highest share of women's sports coverage from 2018-2022 -- all more than 15%.

Still, there is a long way to go -- especially in the pro ranks. There are just a fraction of women's pro sports team events on TV compared to men's pro sports. -- the WNBA being one of the biggest. 

The study, conducted by Wasserman's global insights team, gathered data in partnership with ESPN Research, which funded the research.

For 2018-2023, it looked at data streams of linear 100 TV networks containing sports programming, as well as streaming platforms (ESPN+, Paramount +, Peacock and Amazon Prime); and more than 25 social media platforms; and other digital sites.

Summer and Winter Olympics already provide plenty of female-oriented sports -- pulling in higher levels of women sports viewers into the mix. Pro golf and pro tennis have also been a constant over the years on some TV networks.

In terms of where some of the next level of women's sports may come from, how about the nascent National Women's Soccer League? Or the new forthcoming soccer group -- USL Super League? Pickleball, perhaps?

The NFL made it a point that it witnessed a higher number of women viewers when Taylor Swift appeared in the stands to see her close friend, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs play over the last several weeks.  Collectively, female viewing grew to more than two million.

But that's not all. This year's NCAA's Women's March Madness tournament witnessed an unexpected, sharp 43% rise in viewership to 2.2 million for the four Elite Eight round games on ESPN. Figure that there was a few female viewers taking the game in?

While sports is a seemingly must-have among linear TV networks and stations, a broader female viewing audience for sports programming would also be a major reason to play ball.

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