UK broadcast audiences for women’s sport have doubled from 2021 to 2022, according to new figures from the Women’s Sport Trust (WST).
The research found that 36.1 million people watched women’s sport on TV between January and July this year, up from 17.5 million in the equivalent period in 2021. Audiences watched for an average of 403 minutes in comparison to 140 minutes at this stage of 2021.
The average time per person viewing across all programming also increased by 188 per cent year-over-year (YoY).
England’s win over Germany in the Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 final was the most watched women’s soccer match ever in the UK, reaching a peak TV audience of 17.4 million on public service broadcaster the BBC and attracting 5.9 million streams on digital platforms.
Online streams for Women’s Euro 2022 on the BBC also increased to 18 million, compared to 13.1 million for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2019.
However, TV audiences for 2022 have not hit the heights of 2019, when 40.4 million watched at least three minutes of women’s sport between January and July 2019. For then, the average viewing time per person across all programming was 525 minutes – 122 minutes more than in the same period this year.
WST’s figures showed that 16 per cent of coverage hours on BBC One, BBC Two, Channel 4, ITV and Sky Sports Main Event were dedicated to women’s sport between January and July 2022. This compares to nine per cent in 2021.
In terms of viewing hours, 21 per cent were for women’s sport, in contrast to ten per cent the previous year.
Some 57 per cent of TV viewers have watched women’s sport on three or more occasions between January and July 2022, a significant increase on the 26 per cent who did so in 2021. The figure, though, is down on the 59 per cent for 2019.
The survey also revealed that 54 per cent of Women’s Euros viewers had watched women’s sport in 2022 prior to the tournament, compared to 41 per cent of viewers in 2019 prior to the Fifa Women’s World Cup. 16 per cent of those that watched the Women’s Euros had not watched any sport in 2022 before the competition.
Soccer has also been responsible for 72 per cent of audiences (based on viewing hours) for women’s sport between January and July 2022.
The TV broadcast figures for the study were provided by Futures Sport and Entertainment and sourced by Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB).
“The success of the Women’s Euros shows that if broadcasters are prepared to showcase women’s sport properly, both in terms of volume of coverage and prime time slots, audiences will respond in huge numbers and keep coming back for more,” said Tammy Parlour, WST chief executive and co-founder.
“We also recognise that while changing consumption habits may have led to a decline in TV numbers compared to 2019, the fall shows that there is still much work to be done around growing women’s sport.
“Women’s sport needs to translate this increased interest and attention into generating enhanced commercial revenue streams, such as merchandise, ticketing and media rights, and unlock innovative ways to monetise the passionate women’s sports community, many of whom were new to sport during the Women’s Euros.
“In addition, different parts of the industry, be they a brand, broadcaster or league/federation, can play an important role in building connections between fans and female athletes and teams that will drive greater consumption in the future.”