The future is looking bright for women’s sport as it draws in an audience of almost 32.9 million people in 2021.
Women’s sport has historically not received the same attention as men’s sport, with a lack of commercialisation and sponsorship, participation and generally low viewing statistics, however at last, women’s sport is on the rise. The Women’s Sport Trust’s (WST) “visibility uncovered” study has revealed that the British audience for domestic women’s sports has bucked the trend of declining TV sport viewing hours and drawn in a total of almost 32.9 million people in 2021 – a major step forward for the sporting world.
The record viewing statistics were driven primarily by the 11 million new viewers that tuned into the Women’s Hundred and Women’s Super League (WSL), according to the report. Of the total number of women’s sport’s viewers, 41 per cent of viewing hours focused on cricket, while football contributed 39 per cent, despite the new broadcast deal with BBC Sport and Sky Sports only beginning with the new season in September. The report also found that the 5.9 million new viewers for the WSL had not watched any other sport in 2021 before the start of the season.
Tammy Parlour, chief executive and co-founder of the WST, emphasised the importance of free-to-air broadcast deals alongside those that are subscription-based and said that their impact on women’s sports “should not be underestimated,” with free-to-air television bringing in 19 million new viewers.
It can not be denied that women’s sport inspires women’s sport with 71 percent of the 4.9 million new viewers of the Hundred going on to watch other women’s sports, in particular, tennis and football. Meanwhile, a quarter of those who watched the Women’s Hundred or England women’s cricket did not watch any men’s cricket last year, and 6.2 million people watched live WSL football matches without watching a single Premier League game on TV. Similarly, 1.5 million people watched live W Series coverage without watching live F1.
“Domestic competitions such as the Hundred and the Women’s Super League are the perfect gateway to viewing more women’s sport and I look forward to seeing the impact other major international events this year will have on future viewing figures,” said Parlour.
“We know how important these major events are in growing viewership figures but we want this growth to be sustainable, driving greater habits amongst audiences, to ensure women’s sport continues to be visible, viable and unstoppable.”
Additionally, the study highlighted the importance of major mixed events in attracting a female audience with Wimbledon and the Tokyo Paralympics both having the highest percentage of female viewers from major events, with 57 per cent..
There’s still a long way to go for women’s sport, however, the future is looking more promising than ever before. 2021 viewing statistics have proved that hope is not lost for gender equality in the sporting world and that the younger generations will continue to have more and more role models on the television to inspire them. Fingers crossed it’s onwards and upwards from here!