ONTarget: What’s up with coverage of women’s sports on television?

ONTarget: What’s up with coverage of women’s sports on television?


An opinion on watching women’s sports

Women’s sports are becoming increasingly popular; more fans are attending games and buying merchandise, and more women are playing sports—so why don’t they get shown on television?

In my opinion, the inequitable treatment of women’s sports coverage is distasteful to say the least, but there are two sides to the argument that must be talked about when starting this conversation.

The first argument (and the one I usually side with) is that, if broadcasters, journalists, and sponsors give more coverage to women’s sports, they will continue to grow and become more popular; if they are shown on television, people will watch.

The second common argument, which usually comes from media outlets and sponsors, is that if women’s sport attracted more attention, networks would invest more into them and give them more coverage.

The issue with both of these arguments is that we are still missing hard data for how much viewership women’s sports would get if they were shown on television consistently.

The 2015 women’s soccer World Cup was the most viewed to date.

In the U.S. alone, the final game between the U.S. and Japan pulled in 20.3 million viewers to go with the 53,000 people in the sold out stands. Despite those numbers, women’s professional soccer in the U.S. gets little to no coverage on television.

Even after a success like the World Cup, many people say that women’s sports only attract attention every four years at their world championships or in the Olympics.

Unfortunately, these arguments are all based off of assumptions—not facts.

Right now, coverage of women’s sports is stuck in a catch-22 situation and I think it’s time for a broadcaster to take a chance on a professional league.

Stations such as ESPN and TSN both have the means to broadcast a women’s professional league to viewers and see what the results are.

It’s 2017. It’s about time that this happens.

The U.S. does have the best set up women’s professional leagues to take a chance on, with successful fan bases for the Women’s National Basketball Association and the National Women’s Soccer League.

In Europe, women’s soccer is also extremely popular with leagues such as the Women’s Super League showcasing the best of soccer to fans across the United Kingdom.

As a side note: why do women’s leagues always have to state “women’s” in their title? If we’re going to call it the Women’s NBA, we might as well call it the Men’s NBA as well.

I do think that the WNBA is as good as any league to take a chance on.

I would challenge ESPN to sign a broadcasting deal with the league that involves all of the best games being shown in primetime TV slots and, with that, equally advertised with the NBA games.

This would mean showing the most competitive match ups in both the women’s and men’s divisions.

The length of the deal is hard to decide, but I think that, to give the best opportunity for success, this should be at least a two-year commitment.

If, after two years, fans are not tuning in to watch the women’s games, then okay, the argument that they need to garner more attention to gain more viewers will be valid.

However, if fans rise to the occasion (as I believe they will) and these games get the views they deserve, then the argument that people will watch if there is coverage will be confirmed as true.

Either way—whichever one is true—the chance needs to be given to a league (not just a tournament) in order to give data and facts to arguments that are both currently rooted in assumption and opinion.

Photo courtesy.