Sara Gotfredson, Founder, Trailblazing Sports Group : 2/7/23
On a Sunday morning I logged on to ESPN.com and remembered that the UCONN women were playing the reigning NCAA Champs, the South Carolina Gamecocks in a rematch of last year's NCAA Women's Basketball Championship game (which drew a record 4.5M viewers and became the most watched title game since 2014).
As someone who is working to champion women's sports, I had this game on my radar and was excited to watch the rematch, but as a busy exec and mom with twelve things on the Sunday to do list, the game slipped my mind. But as I often do when I have a free moment I quickly checked ESPN.com for the day's headlines. And there is was - the front page promoting the game (which was on FOX) was in a close 4th quarter battle. I immediately turned on the TV and went to FOX - not FS1, not fboTV, big network TV channel FOX and watched the last 5 exciting minutes of the game.
What I saw was a quality production broadcast with a sold-out crowd of 16,500 at the XL Center in Hartford and the athletes on the court delivering a high intensity back and forth battle with plenty of storylines - from the historic programs, to the hall of fame coaches, to the stars on the court bound for the WNBA next year. And here's what I suspected - this game will be rate!
And that it did - according to Nielsen estimates from ShowBuzz Daily 2.7 the game averaged 1.09 million viewers on FOX — marking the first time in five years that a women’s basketball game has topped the million viewer mark outside of the NCAA Tournament or Olympics according to Sports Media Watch.
Ratings come down to storylines, star power, high reach distribution vehicles, and promotion. The game certainly had the first three elements, and while I don't know what the promotional schedule was on FOX, I suspect that the exposure on the ESPN.com homepage help send casual sports fans over to Fox to watch the game.
At Trailblazing Sports Group, we believe that promotion and media coverage is CRITICAL to the growth of women's sports. We believe brands and media companies can change the game in women's sports, and with continued growth in ratings, companies will continue to see that investing in, covering, AND promoting women's sports is a smart bet.