Premier League vs WSL: Report shows 6.2m watched women’s football over men’s in 2021

WSL vs Premier League

A new report has revealed that domestic women’s sport attracted a record British audience of almost 33 million in 2021. 

Despite the current trend of declining TV viewing hours, women’s sport experienced unprecedented growth across both free-to-air and pay-TV channels, according to a study by Futures Sport in association with the Women’s Sport Trust

The Hundred cricket tournament and FA Women’s Super League topped the list of most-viewed competitions, bringing in 11 million viewers combined. 

Researchers say the Hundred piqued people’s interest the most –– achieving 41 percent of total viewing hours. 

Meanwhile, 39 percent of viewing hours were for the WSL, though the season is still only at its midway point. 

Interestingly, the report claims 25 percent of those who watched women’s cricket did not watch any men’s cricket in 2021, emphasising that the tournament succeeded in attracting new fans to the sport. 

Similarly, 6.2 million people watched live WSL matches on TV without watching the Premier League, while 1.5 million watched the W Series motorsport championship without watching Formula 1. 

Despite this impressive increase in viewing figures, one thing that women’s sport still needs to improve on is audience retention. 

The report noted that only 45 percent of people watched the Hundred more than once, while 35 percent did so for the WSL. 

Though the WSL figure is up from 31 percent the year before, comparably, the Premier League has an 87 percent viewer retention rate. 

Aside from team sports, research also found that interest in individual athletes skyrocketed, particularly for rising tennis star Emma Raducanu. 

The British teenager won the US Open last September, which led to more than eight million UK Google searches for her name. 

Speaking about the rise of women’s sport across the past 12 months, Tammy Parlour, chief executive and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, said: “The importance of free-to-air, alongside pay-TV coverage, in bringing new audiences to women’s sport should not be underestimated.

“Domestic competitions such as The Hundred and the Women’s Super League are the perfect gateway to viewing more women’s sport and I look forward to seeing the impact other major international events this year will have on future viewing figures.

“We know how important these major events are in growing viewership figures but we want this growth to be sustainable, driving greater habit amongst audiences, to ensure women’s sport continues to be visible, viable and unstoppable.”

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