Report shows significant increase in US women’s sports media coverage
A recent study conducted by Wasserman’s women-focused division, The Collective, has revealed a significant transformation in the landscape of women’s sports coverage in the United States. The report, produced in collaboration with ESPN Research, underscores the increasing visibility of women’s sports across various media platforms.
The surge in women’s sports coverage has been driven by the proliferation of streaming platforms and the extensive reach of social media. The study found that streaming services have played a pivotal role in amplifying women’s sports content. Between 2018 and 2022, the hours dedicated to women’s sports on streaming platforms increased by an impressive average of 4,000 hours per year.
The growth of women’s sports programming on streaming platforms is attributed to their unique ability to showcase multiple competitions simultaneously, without the scheduling constraints that linear TV networks often encounter. This flexibility has allowed streaming platforms to offer a broader range of women’s sports content, catering to diverse audiences.
The report underscores the challenge faced by linear TV networks, where women’s sports programming was often scheduled simultaneously with men’s leagues. This scheduling overlap risked cannibalising viewership, as women’s sports events frequently clashed with major men’s leagues, such as the NFL. This issue has spurred a shift towards streaming platforms for women’s sports content.
The headline figure of women’s sports coverage now stands at 15 percent, marking a significant increase compared to previous research, which had suggested a mere 4 percent coverage. If the current growth rate continues, The Collective estimates that women’s sports could constitute as much as 20 percent of sports media coverage by 2025.
Wasserman’s Executive Vice President of Global Insights, Shelley Pisarra, emphasises the need to reassess the opportunities surrounding women’s sports.
“This data powerfully begs a reassessment of the opportunity around women’s sports – to meet fans where their passions live and their consumption habits converge,” Pisarra stated.
“New perspective can perpetuate a growth cycle that will result in greater economic growth for players, leagues, brands, properties and audiences alike.
“Persistent, incorrect assumptions of lower media representation for women’s sports have created hesitancy around investment, whereas truth will spark opportunity. Coverage of sports has definitely evolved across platforms, requiring new approaches to and support for women’s sports advancement.”
The study also revealed that social media conversations related to women’s sports increased to an 18.5 percent share of all sports-related conversations in 2022. Olympic and collegiate accounts played a significant role in these conversations, reflecting the growth in women’s competitions.
Collegiate sports competitions were found to be a driving force behind women’s sports coverage, mainly due to the sheer number of events. Official college TV networks featured prominently in linear broadcasts, with NCAA-affiliated tournaments accounting for a substantial share of women’s sports coverage on streaming platforms.
There is an increased need for representation of women’s professional sports competitions, given that 92 percent of total sporting events in the US are men’s competitions. Bridging this gap will be crucial in further narrowing the media coverage divide.
The evolution of women’s sports coverage in the US is evident, with streaming services and social media playing pivotal roles in increasing visibility and engagement. The study serves as a compelling call to action, accentuating the need for a more inclusive and accurate representation of women’s sports to unlock the full potential of this burgeoning sector in the sports industry.
Photo credit: Erik Drost