There was a near four-fold increase in viewing hours of the latest Barclays FA Women’s Super League season in the UK compared to the previous season, new figures show.
The 2021/22 season earned a total of 34,048,000 viewing hours in the UK, compared with 8,830,000 in the 2020/21 season. This massive increase in viewing hours contributed to a 140 per cent increase in viewership of all women’s sport in the first part of this year.
The viewing figures have been released by the Women’s Sport Trust, showing that almost a third of the UK population have watched women’s sport in 2022. The figures show that 21.1 million viewers in the UK watched women’s sport between January and May this year, compared to just 8.8 million in the same period last year.
The research also found that 20 per cent of total viewers have watched some form of women’s sport on five or more occasions this year, an increase from 9 per cent on the same period last year.
The Women’s Sport Trust has contributed this overall boost in viewers for women’s sport to the popularity of the FA Women’s Super League, Women’s Six Nations and the ICC Women’s World Cup, as well as the availability of women’s sport on free-to-air television on the BBC network.
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League, which enjoyed a new partnership with BBC and Sky in the 2021/22 season, had a significant increase in viewer interest in the UK. Forty six per cent of viewers watched the Women’s Super League on more than one occasion, compared to the previous season.
Co-founder and CEO of Women’s Sport Trust Tammy Parlour said the broadcast figures demonstrate that there is a growing demand for women’s sport in the UK, as well as the increased visibility being provided by broadcaster to meet audience needs.
“What is encouraging to see is the number of fans coming back on a regular basis to watch women’s sport on broadcast, with 46% watching the Barclays WSL on more than one occasion in the 2021/22 season, and a fifth of viewers watching women’s sport on 5 or more occasions so far this year in comparison to 9% in the same period in 2021,” Parlour said.
The Women’s Sport Trust also found that women’s sport accounted for 23 per cent of all sport coverage on BBC One, 20 per cent on BBC Two, and 12 per cent on Sky Sports’ main channel.
Last year, the Women’s Super League signed a multimillion-dollar television rights deal with the BBC and Sky, running for three years. Under the deal, the BBC broadcasts 22 Women’s Super League games per season, with a minimum of 18 shown on BBC One or BBC Two. Sky Sports also provides coverage of up to 44 matches across the Main Event, Premier League and Sky Sports Football channels.
It is said to be the biggest broadcast deal of any professional women’s football league, and marked the first time the rights to the Women’s Super League were sold separately from the men’s game.