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Study: Women’s sports revenue set to grow more than 15% over next three to five years

Majority of respondents in PwC survey view women’s sport market as critical part of industry growth.

7 February 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Half of respondents indicate that greater media coverage is most impactful driver of growth for women’s sport
  • Outlook for growth of sports sector improves from 5% to 6.5%
  • 76% state large tech companies are best positioned to win battle for sports rights

More than 70 per cent of sports executives believe women’s sports revenue will grow by more than 15 per cent over the next three to five years, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The global professional services firm’s latest ‘Global Sports Survey’, which features responses from 507 senior sports executives from across 43 countries, found that the majority of respondents view the women’s sport market as a critical part of future industry growth.

This forecast, according to PwC, is supported by the growing interest from media companies and sponsors who are increasingly seeking to realise the opportunities women’s sport offers, with a number of improved partnerships formed in the past year.

However, it is noted that institutional investment is yet to follow this trend, adopting a more cautious wait and see approach.

In order for women’s sport to accelerate its growth, 50 per cent of respondents indicated that greater media coverage is the most impactful factor. The survey added that increasing live coverage and achieving wider reach is essential, with increased visibility attracting more commercial partners which, in turn, will stimulate revenue growth and enable greater investment in talent and sport development. 

“Increasing the visibility of women’s sport on high-reach networks can set a powerful flywheel in motion,” said Clive Reeves, global sports leader at PwC.

“Extending reach and growing fandom are essential to attract commercial partners and investors who are willing to invest in women’s sport and provide the required financial resources to enable growth at all levels.

“It is essential that all stakeholders work together to accelerate the growth of women’s sport and build a strong, sustainable platform for long-term success.”

More broadly, the survey respondents reported optimism about the future of the sports sector following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the outlook for growth improving in the last year from five per cent to 6.5 per cent.

The key revenue drivers of the improving growth are increased media rights, the resumption of ticketing and hospitality, and growing betting related revenues. 

Additionally, the survey reveals that more than three quarters (83 per cent) of executives believe institutional investment, including private equity and sovereign wealth funds, will continue to grow in the next three to five years.

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of respondents also believe the focus for private equity and sovereign wealth investment will be on premium sports properties. The view is that further value can be unlocked through seizing new streaming and digital opportunities, creating alignment across stakeholders and transforming ways of working.

Furthermore, the value of sports clubs and franchises are expected to rise amid growing interest from investors and the increase in sports mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity across the globe. Survey respondents are predicting a 6.6 per cent growth rate over the next three to five years.

Driving this demand is the scarcity of assets which, combined with increasing demand from investors and a strong media rights market, is driving valuations higher. The last 12 months have seen teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), Premier League and Serie A sell for record sums.

PwC also highlights the increased activity of big tech companies. In the last 12 months, the sports industry has seen giants, such as Apple and Google, make significant moves in the sports media rights market.

In the survey, 76 per cent of executives stated that large tech companies are best positioned to win the battle for sports rights in the next three to five years. In addition, 75 per cent of respondents reported that rights owners will need to be more creative in their media rights distribution models to succeed in the future. 

SportsPro says…

Various studies have already highlighted the increased interest and potential of women’s sport. Notably, the amount of women’s sport watched on average by the UK public is seven times bigger than in 2012, sponsorships were up 20 per cent year-over-year (YoY) in 2022 and European women’s soccer is set to hit €686 million (US$736 million) in annual commercial returns over the next decade.

Women’s sport has proven it should not be an afterthought in the broader sports ecosystem. What will be crucial, though, is how it can continue its upward trajectory. PwC’s survey cites greater media coverage as a vital component. However, the lack of institutional investment highlights private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds’ preference for more established male sports properties.

Women’s sport has come a long way in the last few years but the sense is the journey is only just beginning. If more stakeholders get onboard, extra growth will surely follow.

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