‘Fast Studios’ have just announced plans for ‘Women’s Sports Network’, and this could have an enormous positive impact on the way women watch sports. On top of that, it may improve the representation of female athletes both in and outside their sports.
The network is set to be a 24-hour channel committed to covering the talent and performance of female athletes. From its launch, it will feature the World Surf League, US Ski & Snowboard, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association. ‘Women’s Sports Network’ is also launching in partnership with GoodSport and Empower Onyx, who specifically celebrate Black women in sport. Not only that, but according to LA Times, the show will include game highlights and will be hosted by female broadcasters which there are currently so few of.
The lack of representation in women’s sports
Although women make up 40% of those participating in sport, they receive just 4% of media coverage (according to UNESCO). On top of this, viewers are used to the 4% of coverage often objectifying women or taking a patronising tone. Traditionally, male sports have been prioritised for coverage as they are what brings in the large amounts of regular viewers and ratings. Is this set to change?
Interest in women’s sport has seen a large increase since the pandemic, meaning 21% of UK adults say they now follow women’s sport more than before 2020. There are multiple factors that could have contributed to this, particularly in the UK. Perhaps the enormous success of Emma Raducanu peaked people’s interest, even if they weren’t followers of tennis before. Considering in 2021 we finally saw the return of the Olympics (and female viewers are more event-driven than men, according to Sports Pro Media), maybe that helped gain interest in watching sport. Additionally, female athletes such as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka were massively influential figures in representing mental health in the sport world last year. Broadcasters may also have a role to play, with 68% of people saying the coverage added to their interest.
A change for the future?
46% of people say they would watch more women’s sports if they were more accessible on free television. This ends the potentially age old misogynistic argument that there just ‘isn’t the interest’ in women’s sports. Women’s sports are usually pushed to worse time slots leading to worse ratings automatically, making this an unfair argument. Yet in comparison, women’s gymnastics is the most popular Olympic sport, solidifying a demand for coverage of women’s sports. It’s clear that there certainly is the interest, there has just been a huge gap in coverage for so long. This suggests Fast Studio’s ‘Women’s Sports Network’ will likely be received with huge amounts of support. It will also open so many doors for both successful and upcoming female athletes.
Traditionally, women have been pushed out of watching sport by men who don’t think they are ‘worthy’ of watching. How many times has a woman been asked to ‘name five players’ to ‘prove’ she’s allowed to watch a game? The fact women still want to watch sport despite this is huge, and this new network will only encourage it. Now women can feel safe watching sport in an environment that supports and uplifts them.