Women & Sport: With more women's sports on TV, more fans are … – NorthJersey.com

It’s no secret that in 2022 the popularity of women’s sports is surging.
Fans are breaking attendance records. Viewership numbers are skyrocketing. And it seems the youngest fans are the ones whose appetite for women’s sports is growing the fastest, thanks to recent investment in women’s games that are starting to yield a shift in fan consumption, according to a new report that looks at the explosive year women’s sports have had.
The report, called “Leveling the Playing Field” and conducted by National Research Group, a data and analytics firm, not only reinforces that attention around women’s sports is growing, but takes that a step further by asking fans what they think about women’s sports and inferring what their answers mean for potential long-term growth.
Three out of 10 sports fans in the United States said they watch more women’s sports now than they did five years ago, according to the report. That’s more than twice the number of fans who said they are watching less, and an estimated 57% of fans say their consumption has remained unchanged, indicating a growing audience for women’s sports.
The report also found that younger generations have the fastest growing appetite for women’s sports: 39% of Gen Z sports fans said they are watching more women’s sports now than a year ago.
What’s interesting is the reason fans attribute for watching women’s sports more. An estimated 41% of fans say they watch it more because there are simply more women’s sports being broadcast on television. That’s something that athletes have been pushing for years.
Fans also said they watch more women’s sports now because they see games as more entertaining and competitive than in the past (38%); they learned more about a specific athlete or athletes (37%); there is more press and attention around women’s sports (32%); and women’s sports are being talked about more on social media (25%).
The authors of this report put it succinctly: “It isn’t that [fans’] own tastes have evolved; it’s the landscape of sports and sports broadcasting itself.” Because it has become easier to find games on TV, more fans are tuning in. It really is that simple. The National Women’s Soccer League, which aired its league championship game on primetime for the first time this year after experiencing record-breaking attendance last month, is a perfect example.
Having games more easily accessible to fans translates to more viewers, which translates to increasing the value of broadcast deals, and, in turn, the value of women’s sports overall. The more expensive these deals, the more money that can be re-invested into helping leagues grow.
The growing popularity of women’s sports this past year has also extended beyond playing fields, in particular with a small boom of film and TV content. Think of recent hits like the Oscar-winning King Richard, a biographical sports drama that tells the story of Richard Williams, father and coach to tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams.
This NRG report is an easy must-read. It dives into specific examples of what is going right, and wrong, in the women’s sports space. It also talks about what needs to change, and what may be holding back potential growth. Notably, the report identifies three major hurdles stiffening growth in the women’s sports world: fans having deep-rooted ties to men’s teams and athletes; women’s sports not receiving the same level of commercial support as men’s sports; and fans who want to watch games but who struggle with access.
As the authors of the report said, “True parity will be a generation spanning project — and is unlikely to be achieved until there’s a new cohort of fans who grew up with a deep emotional connection to women’s sports. The priority, therefore, needs to be finding ways to keep up and build on this new sense of momentum.”
As we’ve seen in this year alone, plenty can be done to keep that momentum going.
Broadcasters can continue to invest in programming. Journalists and newsmakers can continue telling women’s sports stories. And policies can be put into place that would ensure investment in girls’ sports at the youngest levels — think, Title IX — which could lead to a deep systemic shift that could trickle up to the highest levels of the game.


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