Women’s sport viewership breaks records but continued growth ‘not a given’

New data from the Women’s Sport Trust shows more people watched women’s sport in the first four months of 2024 than ever before.  

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

UK TV viewership of women’s sport continues to break records, with 20.9 million people watching three minutes or more of coverage in the first four months of 2024.

This is up on the previous high seen in 2023 of 20.6 million, according to the latest data from Women’s Sport Trust and Futures Sport & Entertainment.

Higher viewing figures were supported by increased coverage across both paid-for broadcasters including Sky Sports and TNT Sports, and free channels like BBC One and ITV.  

A third of these viewers (6.8 million) are new to women’s sport, with fresh viewership being driven by free-to-view channels airing more football and rugby.  

Football is regarded as the leading force in women’s sport, but growth in rugby is also paying off. Some 1.3 million people tuned in to see the Guinness Women’s Six Nations title decider in April, with a peak audience of 1.9 million on BBC One. The Six Nations hit a new record, with 8.1 million people tuning into coverage for at least three minutes. 

‘Commercially sustainable’: Why it’s time for brands to start backing women’s sport beyond big tournamentsThe Barclays Women’s Super League witnessed a 10% rise in viewing hours in the four months to 30 April, reaching 31.6 million hours. For the FA Cup, the average audience for the rounds was 537,000, up from 2023’s average of 489,000.  

Despite this positive growth, Women’s Sport Trust CEO Tammy Parlour cautions that increased momentum is not guaranteed.  

“It’s been another strong start to the year for women’s sport. However, it is not a given that this will continue, particularly with the Lionesses not competing in a major women’s football tournament this year,” she says, adding that women’s sport is still in the “test-and-learn” phase.  

Brands need to activate their properties effectively, build on the storytelling around women’s sport and continue to create emotional connections with fans.

Tammy Parlour, Women’s Sport Trust

How can brands and broadcasters make sure women’s sport continues to grow in periods without big tournaments for the Lionesses? According to Parlour, there needs to be “impactful media coverage throughout the whole year”.

“Brands need to activate their properties effectively, build on the storytelling around women’s sport and continue to create emotional connections with fans,” she says. “For broadcasters it’s important to continue to work on discoverability of all types of women’s sports content.”

This echoes the sentiment of Jess Carter, Chelsea and England footballer, who told the Festival of Marketing audience “women’s football isn’t just when we have a tournament.”

“It’s every Sunday, every Wednesday – and [we’re] trying to raise the profile of that. I don’t play just to wait for England camp,” she said.