Study finds over 20m tuned into three minutes or more of women’s sport in the first four months of the year

Sky Sports WSL women's football

The Women’s Sport Trust has found that 20.6 million people tuned into three minutes or more of women’s sport in the first four months of 2023.

This improves on the 18.9 million who did the same between 1 January and 30 April 2022. The data behind the findings comes from Future Sport & Entertainment, and also shows that 34% of viewers hadn’t watched women’s sport before.

The report puts this increase down to growing viewing figures for competitions such as the Women’s Super League, the Women’s Six Nations and the ICC T20 World Cup.

15.3 million watched the WSL in the time period, up from 14.6 million in 2022, with a 29% increase for viewers for 35 and under. In addition, More live viewing hours of WSL content has been consumed on Sky Sports so far than last season (7.8m vs 5.9m), with another 15.1m hours viewed on BBC1 and BBC2. BBC1 has the highest 3 minute+ reach of any channel airing during the WSL live, with 8.78m, a 34% increase from the full 21/22 season. There have also been 9% more female viewers this WSL season so far, making up 37% of total viewership until the end of April.

In national team football, the Arnold Clark Cup reached 1.5 million more people this year, with a 3 minute + reach of 4.6 million in 2023, compared to 3.1 million in 2022.

Meanwhile, this year’s Women’s Six Nations was the most watched ever, with 10.4 million viewing hours on UK television in 2023, compared to the previous best of 7.7 million in 2022, while 3 minute+ reach was 6.1 million in comparison to a previous high in 2022 of 5.7 million. 42% of TV viewers were female in 2023, in comparison to 37% in 2022, with a greater proportion of audiences with children in household watching in 2023 in comparison to the previous year (13% v 11%).

Audiences for England matches increased 17% year-on-year in comparison to the 2022 event, while throughout the tournament fans watched the England team on average for 56 minutes a game, in comparison to 51 minutes in 2022.

Finally, the ICC T20 World Cup had record-breaking UK live TV viewing hours (7.11m in 2023, compared to the previous best of 5.77m in 2018) and saw the highest average audience since becoming a standalone tournament and with all games broadcast. England matches averaged 150,000 viewers per game in 2023, in comparison to 138,000 viewers per match in the 2020 event. This helped Sky Sports Cricket have more viewing hours for women’s sport than any other channel. 

Tammy Parlour, WST chief executive, said: “The unstoppable rise of women’s sport is again illustrated by these record-breaking figures. It is hugely encouraging to see that a number of sports, including football, rugby union and cricket, are attracting record audiences in the first four months of 2023.”