Record-breaking views for women’s sport in 2023, data shows

The latest research from Women’s Sport Trust shows 46.7 million people watched women’s sport on linear TV last year. 

Lionesses Football Association
Photo by Lynne Cameron – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

People in the UK watched more women’s sport on linear TV in 2023 than ever before, with 46.7 million people tuning in to watch at least a minute, an increase of one million on the previous record set in 2019. 

The average time spent watching women’s sport across free channels and paid TV increased 16% year-on-year, according to new research from Women’s Sport Trust and Futures Sports & Entertainment. 

This equates to 10 hours and seven minutes per person, up from eight hours and 44 minutes in 2022. 

BBC iPlayer racked up 25.7 million streams of last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, a 76% increase on 2019’s tournament, while ITVX recorded 15.6 million views.

Women’s sport is bringing new people into sport, data suggestsOn TikTok, the Barclays Women’s Super League gained 150 million views – a 268% year-on-year rise – while the TikTok Women’s Six Nations saw a 586% increase in views. The tournament is now known as the Guinness Women’s Six Nations. 

While strides are being made, coverage of women’s sports on TV went down in 2023, from 13% to 8%. 

Tammy Parlour, CEO and co-founder of Women’s Sport Trust, says: “This report points to unprecedented streaming numbers across digital alongside record video consumption for leading women’s sports competitions on social media channels.”

“The industry needs to capitalise on these opportunities to drive further awareness and engagement, so we can continue to broaden the audience for women’s sports, and reach the fans where they are,” she adds.

How England Rugby is investing in marketing to grow the girls’ gameWomen’s sport is growing, as is the opportunity for brands to tap into it, with 15.6 million people watching the Women’s World Cup who didn’t watch any women’s sport before the tournament. A further 43% of these people went on to watch women’s sport afterwards. 

Football is the market leader for women’s sport, as it is with men’s. In terms of the fans, it’s increasingly a “younger, female” market. Parlour calls this “great news for the industry” as it shows it’s “starting to attract a distinctive fanbase”. 

Laura Weston, trustee at Women’s Sport Trust, says:”For a lot of brands this is the holy grail audience and it’s fantastic that we are attracting them, both at live women’s sport and across digital platforms.  I hope this will provide brands with the confidence to use more creativity and bring content innovation and excitement to women’s sport.”

“Sports marketing can be formulaic and highly controlled but women’s sport offers a fresh opportunity where the same constraints don’t exist.  Brands need to see this as an opportunity.  The joy is this doesn’t need to be a huge investment either – channels such as social and PR are cost effective ways to reach this audience,” she adds. Brands can play a role in shaping women’s sport fans’ experiences, notes Weston. One example of this is Liverpool FC Women’s sponsor Expedia, which provides free coaches to away games.

“There aren’t many properties that offer the same opportunity to be part of building a culture and one that will leave a positive legacy both in sport and socially.  We hope this opportunity continues to be realised,” she says.