27 JUL 2023

How can broadcasters and sponsors fuel the momentum of women’s sports viewership?

The momentum of women’s sports viewership is the result of brands, sponsors and broadcasters investing in and prioritizing women’s sports, Nielsen assured in its latest report.

27 JUL 2023

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The 2023 NCAA tournament drew nearly 10 million viewers for the final game between Iowa and LSU – up 103% from the previous year. The WNBA draft audience increased 42% between 2022 and 2023 and was up 89% with female viewers. Interest in the Women’s Super League increased 81% from 2022 to 2023, and this year, 41% of the global population are excited for the Women’s World Cup, rising from 34% before the 2019 Women’s World Cup. This massive shift has not occurred in a vacuum: it is the result of brands, sponsors and broadcasters investing in and prioritizing women’s sports, Nielsen assured in its latest report.

Nielsen used BBC as an example. Previously, women’s football fans had to search high and low to watch their favorite teams compete. While a few games were shown on main linear channels, the rest were tucked away in digital space. But then, in 2019, the broadcaster doubled down on the Women’s World Cup, showing nearly triple the number of matches compared with the Women’s Euro 2017 on Channel 4. Three years later, the broadcaster did it again, prioritizing the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 by airing 26 matches in total. The BBC not only gave more prominence to channel slots, but they also promoted the coverage of the 2019 and 2022 tournaments – along with other women’s sports – through an integrated campaign.

Between 2017 and 2019, UK viewership rose from 11.7 million to 68.6 million. In 2022, 57.9 million people watched the UEFA European Women’s Football Championship. This growth was largely led by women ages 35+, but in looking at new male audiences, younger fans are particularly interested in women’s sports, reinforcing the diversity of the growing appeal, Nielsen noted.

These major tournaments are drawing bigger and bigger audiences, creating a halo effect of opportunity for the players, the fans and the sponsors. Nearly 80% of the general population are now aware of the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 40% find it appealing – the highest scores for any female competition.

“The takeaway is clear: prioritizing the access and promotion of women’s sports increases visibility and grows audiences and sponsorship opportunities. To do so, broadcasters and sponsors must internalize these three facts,”  Nielsen said in its latest report.


When sports fans were asked about the barriers that prevent them from keeping up with women’s sports, they cited two main factors: lack of information and lack of access. According to Nielsen Fan Insights, nearly a quarter of the US population (22%) said that there is not enough information in the media to keep up with women’s sports.

At the same time, almost a fifth of US fans (18%) said live airings of women’s sports are not easily accessible to them. Fans – including young ones – still want to watch sports play out in real time. Per Nielsen Fan Insights, 36% of global audiences ages 16-29 are interested in watching the 2023 Women’s World Cup live, which is an even higher interest than viewers 50-69 years old (32%).

“This coverage problem presents a valuable content opportunity. Understanding audiences’ appetite for women’s sports can help inform how content distributors’ programming is organized, described and tagged to help improve and capitalize on organic search and discovery among fans,”  the report said.

Investing in access to and promotion of the actual games is critical to growing women’s sports fandom, but it should not stop there, Nielsen said. Audiences are hungry for more: nearly 40% of global sports fans are interested in non-live content related to live sports events. This number jumps to 44% when looking at fans ages 16-29. For both broadcasters and brands, this underscores a clear opportunity to create, promote and sponsor the women’s sports stories fans want, the report noted.

Furtehremore, fans do love a company that supports their favorite franchise. According to Nielsen Fan Insights, 71% of Women’s World Cup fans believe that companies who sponsor the tournament show their commitment to the advancement of gender equality and women’s sports.