Despite appeal among highly-coveted audiences from a wide-range of demographics, coverage of women’s sporting events still significantly lags behind where viewership interest tells us it should be. One of the key questions I am regularly asked as the Chief Marketing Officer of the largest provider of independent first-party TV audience data is how advertisers can find their most desirable TV audiences at scale. From my perspective, there has never been a better opportunity to tap into the extraordinary growth of live women’s sporting events to reach younger, more diverse and affluent audiences.
In a world of cord-cutting and subscription cycling, we continue to see tremendous growth from a viewership standpoint in women’s sports. Its popularity has grown steadily over the past several years, with 2022 marking a watershed moment with the growth of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) viewership, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) scoring primetime coverage, and the launch of the Women’s Sports Network, the first 24/7 channel dedicated to women’s sports. 

Women’s sports viewership posts explosive year-over-year increases

2022 has marked a record year of exciting sporting events between world-class women athletes. Across the women’s March Madness tournament, the WNBA finals, and the National Women’s Soccer League Championship, we saw double and triple digit increases based on year-over-year viewership.
The NWSL championship drove a particularly dramatic spike, with over one million households tuning in to the face-off between Portland and Kansas City. This was the first year that the NWSL championship game scored a primetime broadcast airing and, with that opportunity, it brought in a serious audience. 
During the Olympics, we also saw women’s sports rise to the top and dominate the ratings. In fact, the top three events that generated the highest viewership at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were women’s competitions, with alpine skiing claiming gold, followed by bobsledding, and Chloe Kim’s gold-medal winning halfpipe run coming in as the third most-watched event.  

Diverse audiences over-index on women’s sports programming

A key reason we are seeing smart advertisers leaning into women’s sports is for the diverse and traditionally harder to reach audiences they pull in. For example, 39% of Gen Z sports fans are watching more women’s sports than they were just one year ago. Furthermore, Samba TV data has found that women’s sports over-index in their share of diverse, younger, and wealthier viewers compared to the national average. During the WNBA finals and semifinals, Samba TV saw Black households, Gen Z (A20-24) households, and households in the $150k-$200k income bracket over-index based on viewership. 
Women’s sports are drawing in younger, more affluent viewers from every corner of the nation. Both coastal and inland cities over-indexed to the 2022 NWSL championship game, highlighting the universal appeal and reach of women’s sporting events for brands.

Broadcasters should prioritize television coverage of women’s sports

Women’s sports have historically struggled to gain significant advertiser traction because their games have not benefited from the same network visibility as men’s sports. As broadcasters seek to pull in viewers, women’s sports should be top of mind. Game 1 of the WNBA finals, which aired on network television (ABC), drew in more than one million viewing households. That’s more than twice the average rating for every other finals game which aired on cable channels. Women’s sports have earned and deserve more primetime television placements. When given this opportunity, audiences show up to tune in.
It’s clear 2022 was a breakout year for women’s sports, and a watershed moment for female athletes and the industry overall. Smart advertisers and broadcasters alike took advantage of the broad and growing appeal of women’s sports and their investments were rewarded by massive double and triple digit growth in audiences. Broadcasters should take note for 2023 and give women’s sporting events the primetime placement they deserve. 
If this year was any indication, the movement surrounding women’s sports and their diverse fans provides an unprecedented opportunity to reach younger and more affluent audiences from every corner of the nation.


Meredith Brace