New research surpasses established assumptions of women’s sports representation relative to total sports media coverage; The leap past the long-assumed 4% figure is driven by the growth of streaming and social media, based on multichannel, integrated data and analysis
The Collective® – the women-focused practice within Wasserman, a global leader in sports, music, entertainment and culture – released today a new study substantiating the growing media representation and cultural impact of women’s sports in the context of the larger sports media ecosystem. A key figure revealed that women’s sports comprise on average 15% of total sports media coverage, with increased content notably driven by the growth of streaming and social media. The study, conducted by Wasserman’s global insights team, gathered figures from across the industry in partnership with ESPN Research, who funded and supported the research.
“This data powerfully begs a reassessment of the opportunity around women’s sports – to meet fans where their passions live and their consumption habits converge. New perspective can perpetuate a growth cycle that will result in greater economic growth for players, leagues, brands, properties and audiences alike,” said Wasserman Executive Vice President, Global Insights Shelley Pisarra. “Persistent, incorrect assumptions of lower media representation for women’s sports have created hesitancy around investment, whereas truth will spark opportunity. Coverage of sports has definitely evolved across platforms, requiring new approaches to and support for women’s sports advancement.”
As consumption habits have shifted dramatically since the advent of digital and social media, and rights holders have awarded more opportunities to streaming platforms, a more inclusive, realistic look at the position women’s sports holds in the general sports conversation is warranted. For perspective, in the U.S., women’s sports comprise roughly half of the total competitions played across collegiate, professional and national sports events, while only receiving 15% of the coverage. However, removing collegiate competition from the mix, professional women’s sports make up only 8% of available competition inventory.
The study summary can be downloaded here: http://wearethecollective.com/15-percent
Key insights include:
● Streaming / Social Media Lead Growth: Not surprisingly, as consumption habits have shifted, these media platforms offer the highest share and fastest growth of women’s sports coverage. An average of 26% of studied streaming coverage has been dedicated to women’s programming since 2018 – with over 4,000 hours of identified women’s streaming coverage added annually. Further, identified social accounts dedicated over 18% of posts to women’s sports in 2022. The numbers suggest that investors and stakeholders might optimize revenue against these mediums to drive continued fan engagement, as these channels currently deliver the best coverage opportunities.
● League Expansion Potential: The findings further suggest that continued expansion of women’s leagues is critical for sustained growth. There is a fraction of women’s pro sports in the U.S. as compared to men’s – in terms of teams, leagues and total competitions played – and modern broadcast/streaming capabilities allow for a more equal share of coverage when supply allows. For example, collegiate sports are more equitable in the number of competitions, and college networks offer more equitable coverage of women’s sports. Pac-12, ACC Network, ESPNU and SEC Network bear the highest share of women’s coverage from 2018-2022, all more than 15%.
● Marquee Moment Momentum: Spikes in social/digital coverage occur around national competitions or significant storylines that engage more fans to spark conversation. Studio shows allocate less than 5% of coverage to women’s sports, proving the need for media to engage women’s sports topics beyond the surface. Growth may lie in driving conversation to women’s sports, and not just coverage of competitions.
“Given the massive shifts in fan behavior and conversation over the last five years, we wanted to account for a more well-rounded picture of media representation and fan consumption,” said Thayer Lavielle, EVP, The Collective® at Wasserman. “Emerging consumer behaviors are driving the growth and opportunity for women’s sports, and this redefinition of coverage better reflects those behaviors. This is just the start of understanding how coverage of women’s sports can affect the entire ecosystem.”
Assessing 2018-2023, the team analyzed over 1.2 billion lines of data with the goal to find a more accurate share of current coverage. Wasserman scrutinized various sources to understand the full ecosystem of coverage, with data streams comprising of linear TV (including 100 TV networks containing some sports programming), streaming (including streaming platform sports programming on ESPN+, Paramount +, Peacock and Amazon Prime), social (including 25+ aggregate social accounts across Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok) and digital (including keyword Boolean queries to pull all “news” hits within the last five years).
About The Collective®
The Collective® is Wasserman’s women-focused practice that exists to advance the power of women in sports, music and entertainment by supporting talent, brands, properties and the industry at-large – providing unique insights, strategies and ideas with the aim to raise visibility and drive inclusion of women in sports, entertainment and culture. Learn more on Twitter @WassCollective and Instagram @wassermancollective.
Wasserman is a global leader in sports, music, entertainment and culture. Founded in 2002, Wasserman represents many of the world’s most iconic sports and entertainment figures, music artists, brands and properties, empowering them to shape culture and captivate audiences worldwide.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Wasserman operates globally across 27 countries and more than 62 cities, including New York, London, Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Madrid, Mexico City, Toronto, Paris and Sydney.