In the third instalment of our series “Trends and insights for 2021”, Nancy Gillen, Editor of GMSW, gives us her thoughts and predictions for the year ahead.
Much of women’s sport was at a standstill in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is making a strong comeback this year. If anything, women’s sport is about to become a lot more visible.
This is mainly a result of broadcast deals in women’s sports such as football and netball. The FA recently announced Sky Sports and the BBC would air the Women’s Super League from next season. Sky Sports will show up to 44 matches throughout the season, with a minimum of 35 screened across Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Football. The BBC has committed to showcase 22 live games per season, with a minimum of 18 matches on BBC One and BBC Two. This landmark deal is the first time the broadcast rights to the WSL have been sold separately to the men’s game, with the 12 teams in the top tier of women’s football set to receive a proportion of the revenue.
Sky Sports is also broadcasting coverage of the ongoing Netball Superleague, while England’s final match in the Women’s Six Nations this month is set to be shown on BBC Two. And of course, the Olympics in Tokyo this summer will be promoting female athletes across all sports, from athletics to swimming and gymnastics.
This mix of both pay TV and free-to-air coverage should really boost the visibility of women’s sport this year. It also shows that broadcasters and brands are now beginning to view women’s sport as something of real value, which will in turn result in further investment across the board.
With the rising visibility of women’s sport, there should be an increased interest in the stories of female athletes, whether these are told through interviews, videos or podcasts. As a result, there will be a boom in content produced around sports women and their backgrounds. It will be interesting to see how platforms such as TikTok and Clubhouse – both relatively new social medium – are utilised to advance this content.
Women’s sport was gaining momentum in terms of audience sizes before the pandemic, both in-person and on TV. The global health crisis has caused this momentum to stall, but there will be a lot of attention on regaining an audience when life returns to normal. With broadcasters and brands now acknowledging the value in women’s sport, it should bounce back stronger than before.