TN50 - driving the next 50 years of growth in women's sports. Presented by Axios and Deep Blue
Apr 23, 2024 - Business

NWSL soccer fans spur audience growth across TV networks

CBS Sports' Daniel Weinberg, Amazon Ads' Amy McDevitt, Scripps Sports' Brian Lawlor, ESPN's Rachel Epstein and Axios' Sara Fischer onstage

(L-R) CBS Sports' Daniel Weinberg, Amazon Ads' Amy McDevitt, Scripps Sports' Brian Lawlor, ESPN's Rachel Epstein and Axios' Sara Fischer. Photo credit: Axios and Deep Blue Sports & Entertainment Business of Women's Sports Summit 2024.

The National Women's Soccer League has brought a crucial boost in audience growth for the TV networks airing the games, executives said at the TN50: Business of Women's Sports Summit on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The growth in women's sports are alleviating pressure that broadcast networks face with the decline of linear TV and the fragmentation of audiences.

Zoom in: "Female audience expansion is where the growth is and that's what the league can bring," ESPN's vice president Rachel Epstein said at the event, produced by Axios and Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment.

  • ESPN's first three NWSL games attracted a 50-50, male-female audience — the network historically skews 70-30, male-female, Epstein said.
  • In a conversation moderated by Axios' Sara Fischer, Epstein was joined onstage by executives of the other three networks — Scripps Sports, Amazon's Prime Video and CBS Sports — that signed a four-way TV rights deal worth $240 million with the NWSL.
  • The NWSL's younger, female audience motivated CBS Sports to participate in the league's new TV deal. "We skew a little bit male. We skew a little bit older. Clearly 180-degree difference here," CBS Sports executive vice president Daniel Weinberg said.
  • "It's really hard to be a women's sports fan in America. There's no consistency," Scripps Sports president Brian Lawlor said. "We have a national broadcast network that we knew we could bring double headers on Saturday nights."

Zoom out: The new deal expanded the NWSL's national broadcast windows from 30 to 118.

  • Speaking onstage prior to the panel, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman shared several statistics on why the league deserved a larger media rights deal. Total game attendance was up 36% year over year, and gross ticket revenue was up 39%.
  • "We were able to show that we had a growing audience and not many properties have this story to tell," Berman said.

Go deeper: Las Vegas Aces' Clark cites social media power in women's sports growth

TN50: The Business of Women's Sports Summit is an event focused on the growing marketing and investment dollars in women's sports. The event, produced by Axios and Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment, features top female athletes, sports leaders and investors in the women's sports industry.

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