The average viewing time per person for women’s sport on TV in the UK increased year-on-year by a record 131% in 2022, according to research by the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) charity.
The report showed that the average viewer watched eight hours and 44 minutes of women’s sport in 2022, compared to three hours and 47 minutes in 2021.
It was also a record year for domestic women’s sport in the UK, with 37.6 million watching in 2022, beating the previous high of 32.9 million set in the prior year. English soccer's Women's Super League was the main driver of this with 16 million unique viewers.
A total of 21.7 million TV viewers, 46% of whom were female, watched for two hours or more, in comparison to 7.6 million in 2021, while the numbers were also up on 2019’s 20.2 million viewers when audience figures were transformed by the FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC).
Sports coverage hours across key sports channels (BBC One, BBC Two, Sky Sports, Channel 4, and ITV) increased for women’s sport in 2022 compared to 2021.
However, the number of unique viewers watching three minutes or more on TV was down in 2022 compared to 2019 (40.1 million in 2022 vs 41.7 million in 2019).
This is believed to be mainly due to the volume of matches played and televised on linear TV, with the WWC in 2019 being compared to the Women’s Euros in 2022 (52 matches played and 31 televised for WWC vs 31 matches played and 29 televised for the Euros).
Tammy Parlour, the Women’s Sport Trust co-founder and chief executive, said: “While previously the focus has been on ensuring that women’s sport is visible in broadcast, which remains really important, to ensure the commercial sustainability of women’s sport we need to maintain and grow the time that fans are spending consuming women’s sport content.
“To see time spent with women’s sport increasing … is testament to our belief that if you make women’s sport visible, then viewership will follow. The fact that women’s sport accounts for 15% of total sports viewing hours on key channels, compared to 10% in 2021, despite only being 13% of coverage hours, illustrates this demand.
“A big focus for the industry in 2023 should be how to continue to build visibility across all platforms, not just TV, as this will help build connection and habit with women’s sport, which in time can then be commercialized.”
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