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Investing in the Future of Women’s Sports

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The business of women’s sports has been on the rise in the past few years, making major strides in 2020.  In 2020, viewership in the National women’s soccer league grew by nearly a whopping 300%, reaching over 650,000 views, and it continues to grow.  In addition, the 2020 NWSL challenge cup drew viewership on par with an MLB game airing in the same time slot.  Interest in women’s soccer was ignited by the 2019 World Cup win; but, the United States women’s team had placed in the top three in every World Cup since the tournament was established in 1991.  So, what changed? 

Instead of broadcasting the first and last games of the season on a subscription service, the games were aired on CBS.  The month-long tournament schedule didn’t conflict with any other sporting events, starting before the men’s league and before the NBA returned from lockdown.  Esmeralda Negron, the co-founder of Atlanta Media and former professional soccer player, asserts that “premium broadcasting plays a massive role in elevating the visibility and profile of leagues and players at the club level.”  In the world of sports, viewership powers everything. 

Contrary to popular belief, women are sports fans as well.  The demographic of sports fans are 49% women and 51% men.  Viewers want women’s sports as well; 84% of sports fans are interested in women’s sports, and 66% of all people are interested in at least one women’s sport.  Not only do women consistently watch sports, but they are also an integral part of viewership, influencing growth and popularity.  In 2020, young women alone, ages 18-34, increased MLB viewership by over 80%.  Additionally, when the Olympic Channel looked into their demographics, they found that 56% of their engagement came from women, and viewership of women’s content was 16% higher than men’s.

Even with this information, pay gaps and unequal investment opportunities plague women’s sports.  In NCAA Division 1 football schools, they give women on average 29% of total athletic operating expenses, 28% of recruiting dollars, and 39% of athletic scholarship dollars.  Division 1 football expenditures alone exceed all spending on women’s sports.  Another issue is the large pay gaps present in the sporting industry.  On average, female athletes are earning 63% of their male counterparts.  For example, the NBA pays its players up to 51% of the league’s revenue, and the WNBA players take home less than 23%. 

“The fact that it’s 2021 and the WNBA and NCAA women’s sports are treated like some sort of rec league specialty sport like the national corn hole league is is beyond disgusting, it’s time to stand up and bring true equality to sports.” Eric Mitchell – CEO, LifeFlip Media

While there are more people interested in men’s sports than women’s, there is still a huge fanbase.  45% of people would consider attending live women’s sports events, and 46% would watch more women’s sports if they were more accessible on free channels.  Media coverage is key, and the potential fanbase for women’s sports is in the millions.  Women’s sports receive less coverage in both print and broadcasting, creating a missed opportunity for increased viewership and sponsorships.  Women’s sports represent an untapped market for valuable sponsorship opportunities for brands, yet they aren’t given the opportunity.  The time has come for women to be compensated fairly and close the pay gap with their male counterparts.  Investing in women’s sports is now more important than ever. 

CEO of Penske Media Group. Experienced Content Editor with a demonstrated history of working in the newspaper industry. Spoken on stages around the globe - NYU, US Embassy, P&G Toronto, and much more.

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