Record-breaking UK viewership for women’s sports in 2023
Women’s sports viewership in the UK has achieved unprecedented heights in 2023, with viewers consuming an average of nearly 10 hours of women’s sports content between January 1 and October 22, according to a report published by the Women’s Sport Trust (WST).
The report revealed that viewers in the UK dedicated an average of nine hours and 58 minutes to watching women’s sports on television, including events such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, golf’s Solheim Cup and the women’s Six Nations Rugby Championship.
The 2023 Solheim Cup, in particular, captured the attention of audiences, accumulating a record combined 9.5 million hours of viewership. A third of this audience did not tune in to the male equivalent, the Ryder Cup, indicating a distinct viewership for the women’s competition. This viewership figure surpassed the previous best in the UK, which stood at 6.3 million hours viewed in 2021.
Beyond traditional TV broadcasting, women’s sports also experienced growth in online viewership. The England women’s rugby series against Canada, despite lacking a TV deal, attracted 234,000 viewers across Facebook and YouTube.
The women’s Six Nations set a new viewership record in the UK, accumulating 10.4 million viewing hours on TV, surpassing the previous record of 7.7 million.
“It’s pleasing to see the growth trajectory in audience figures across a breadth of women’s sport,” Tammy Parlour, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of WST stated.
“Each sport is working hard to build and understand its audience and this work is paying off on an international level.
“We have entered a new phase of visibility, the industry is moving past looking at top-line figures and is starting to delve deeper. This will lead to more understanding of what is going to work on a domestic level to drive further viewership.”
While women’s sports as a whole experienced record viewership, some specific competitions saw year-on-year declines. The women’s Hundred cricket competition and the Women’s Super League (WSL) in soccer both faced challenges in maintaining their audience.
In the women’s Hundred, while overall viewing hours increased, average audiences dropped by 15.5 percent compared to the inaugural 2022 season. Similarly, the WSL’s average audience on pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports fell by 20.5 percent year-on-year.
Nonetheless, the period also witnessed a historic moment when Arsenal’s clash with West Ham drew 746,000 viewers on the free-to-air channel BBC, making it the second-most viewed WSL game of all time.