Apr 27, 2024 - Business

๐Ÿ“บ Coming to a TV near you

Data: Nielsen; Note: 2020 tournaments canceled due to COVID ; Chart: Axios Visuals

TV networks that have historically undervalued women's sports are now scrambling to get their hands on rights.

Why it matters: "Female audience expansion is where the growth is," said ESPN's vice president Rachel Epstein at the Business of Women's Sports Summit.

Be smart: Attention to women's sports reached new heights last month, when โ€” for the first time in NCAA historyโ€š the women's basketball final garnered more views than the men's championship game,

Zoom in: That milestone comes on the heels of a slew of historic new rights agreements between women's leagues and networks.

  • The NWSL inked its landmark four-year $240 million TV rights deal with ESPN, CBS Sports, Amazon Prime Video and Scripps Sports last year.
  • ESPN's new NCAA TV deal valued the women's college basketball tournament at $65 million a year, tripling the annual value from its last deal.

The big picture: Already, the TV networks are reaping the benefits.

  • ESPN's first three NWSL games attracted a 50-50, male-female audience when the network historically skews 70-30, male-female, Epstein said.
  • "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.

What to watch: In breaking the NCAA's all-time scoring record across men's and women's basketball last month, Iowa's Caitlin Clark seems poised to propel newfound interest in the WNBA, which is currently negotiating for a new TV contract beginning in the 2025 season, Axios' Tim Baysinger notes.

  • Clark's arrival coincides with WNBA television rights negotiations, creating an urgency for the 27-year-old league to capitalize on a once-in-a-generation opportunity
  • The WNBA hasn't had a game draw more than 1 million viewers since 2008.
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