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Women's sport in the UK reaches new viewership milestone in 2024

Published: Updated: 08:56, 16 May 2024
This year record 20.9 million people have consumed women’s sports in UK so far

The first four months of 2024 have seen a record-breaking surge in the viewership of women's sport in the UK. According to a report by the Women’s Sport Trust (WST), an impressive 20.9 million people tuned into women’s sport coverage during this period.

Interestingly, one-third of these viewers, approximately 6.8 million, were new to women’s sports, having not watched any such content in 2023. This influx of new viewers can be attributed to increased free-to-air (FTA) coverage of women’s soccer and rugby union.

Live viewing hours for popular leagues like the Women’s Super League (WSL) saw an increase as well - up ten per cent to 31.6 million hours. The biggest games are attracting more attention with Manchester City vs Manchester United witnessing a seven per cent rise from last year's most-watched game between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Moreover, WSL matches on BBC One experienced a significant rise by 22 per cent year-over-year (YoY), from 637,000 to 775,000 so far this season.

Sky simulcasting boosts viewership

Sky simulcasting WSL games on Sky Showcase and Sky Max has also contributed towards boosting average viewer numbers by five per cent since November. Furthermore, leading up to the Women’s FA Cup final there was an increase in audience numbers by ten percent reaching up to an average audience figure of about 537,000.

The final match itself witnessed a three percent YoY rise with over one million tuning into live match time viewing.

Women's Six Nations on BBC set another record with over eight million tuning in for at least three minutes – a 33 per cent increase from 2023. Games featuring England were particularly popular, with a whopping 42 per cent rise in viewership.

The driving force behind the increase

The WST report highlights that the increase in viewership from 20.6 million during the first four months of 2023 to this year's figure of 20.9 million was driven by more coverage hours on pay-TV channels like Sky Sports and TNT Sports, as well as increased prominence on FTA channels such BBC One and ITV1.

Tammy Parlour, WST chief executive, said:

“It’s been another strong start to the year for women’s sport, however, it is not a given that this will continue, particularly with the Lionesses not competing in a major women’s football tournament this year. We’re still in a test-and-learn phase, and broadcasters are being rewarded for their decision to give women’s sport more airtime and greater prominence.

“With millions of new viewers still coming through we have clear evidence of a growing and engaged fanbase.”

In addition to growing audiences, women’s sport is proving its ability to attract a new and diverse audience for broadcasters. The Women’s Six Nations attracted a higher percentage of the desirable ABC1 audience (those who have more education and better-paid jobs) compared to last year.

Moreover, the FA Women’s League Cup final between Arsenal vs Chelsea doubled its proportion of under-34s since 2022 – with an impressive18 per cent of those who watched on BBC Two being under this age group.

With an exciting title race between Manchester City and Chelsea in WSL potentially going down to the wire, it is expected that viewership for women's sports will continue its upward trajectory throughout the rest of the year.

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