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Study: UK women’s sport viewership set to reach 51.1m in 2021

Audiences for women’s sport have grown from 46.8m in 2019.

28 October 2021 Rory Jones

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  • Opening game of The Hundred was the UK’s most-watched women’s cricket match ever
  • WSL has drawn in 7.87m new viewers in opening weeks of the season

A new study commissioned by the Women’s Sport Trust has revealed that UK broadcast audiences for women’s sport are set to reach a new record annual total in 2021.

The report, led by Futures Sport, found that British broadcast audiences for that sector are set to increase to 51.1 million by the end of this year, up from 46.8 million viewers in 2019.

This growth in media audiences has been heavily influenced by the introduction of the new short-form women’s cricket competition The Hundred, as well as the Women’s Super League (WSL) – English female soccer’s top fight – securing wider distribution from new broadcast partnerships with pay-TV giant Sky and the BBC public service network.

During The Hundred’s inaugural 2021 season this summer, 47 per cent of live coverage hours were dedicated to women’s matches, which generated 36 per cent of live viewing hours on both BBC and Sky.

The league’s opening match was the most watched women’s cricket game in UK broadcasting history.

The tournament was also successful in finding new audiences, with the 4.3 million people who tuned in to watch the women’s edition of The Hundred having not watched any of the England men’s team’s series against India earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, the WSL has drawn in 7.87 million new viewers during the opening five weeks of the 2021/22 season.

The study also discovered that 89 per cent of these viewers on BBC and Sky had not watched any of the WSL’s matches over the four previous seasons, when the league was aired on BT Sport.

On the multi-sport side, the report found that during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, 47 per cent of audio mentions in the BBC’s broadcast coverage of the Games were referring to female olympians, while 44 per cent of medalists were female, and 53 per cent of Team GB were female athletes.

“We’ve always known the positive impact global events like the Olympics, Paralympics and Wimbledon have on gender parity of both coverage and viewership,” said Tammy Parlour, chief executive and co-founder of the Women’s Sport trust.

“However it is great to see the change that’s happening as other women’s sporting events start to gain traction. This trend now needs to become a habit so they keep coming back on a regular basis and build greater emotional connections with the leading female teams and athletes.

“With major global events in 2022 like the Women’s Cricket World Cup, World Cup events for women’s rugby union and rugby league, and the Women’s Euros, alongside growing domestic properties like the Women’s Super League and The Hundred, we hope that women’s sport can build on the momentum it has generated this year and attract new commercial partners to take advantage of the opportunity to achieve purpose and profit.”

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