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Report: WSL nets record viewing figures for BBC

800,000 watch Everton v Manchester City match on BBC One.

8 September 2021 Ed Dixon
  • WSL clash the most-watched women’s club soccer game on UK television
  • BBC iPlayer also gets 100,000 live match requests
  • 311,000 peak audience tune in for Manchester United v Reading on Sky Sports, breaking pay-TV record

The Women’s Super League (WSL) match between Everton and Manchester City pulled in a peak audience of 800,000 viewers on BBC One, making it the most-watched women’s club soccer match on UK television, according to the Telegraph.

The fixture, which took place on 4th September at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium, was already making history as the first ever domestic women’s league game to be broadcast on network television in the UK.

The Everton versus Manchester City match reportedly clocked an average audience of 700,000 on BBC One, making it the most watched programme at that time on any channel on Saturday afternoon in the country.

In addition, the Telegraph said that there were a further 100,000 requests to watch the game on the BBC iPlayer streaming service, before a further 800,000 people on average tuned in on Sunday night for the BBC’s WSL highlights and analysis programme, the Women’s Football Show.

UK public service broadcaster the BBC is sharing rights for the WSL with pay-TV giant Sky Sports. The pair’s three-year deal was announced in March, with the PA news agency reporting it is worth around UK£15 million (US$20.7 million) per season.

The Telegraph also reports that the season-opening match between Manchester United and Reading managed a peak audience of 311,000 on Sky Sports, making it the most-watched pay-TV match since the WSL began in 2011. The newspaper adds that it surpassed former rights holder BT’s highest peak of 305,000.

The Telegraph also noted that the audience figure is more than twice the largest seen by previous joint-rights holders BT Sport in the WSL. BT had a highest one-minute peak audience of 305,000 for Arsenal versus Manchester City on 7th February 2021. BT’s highest average WSL audience had been for the Manchester derby on 14th November 2020, with a 132,000 average.

The UK’s most-watched club-level women’s match remains the 2019 FA Cup final between Manchester City and West Ham, which was watched by 2.2 million on BBC One.

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