Tennis leading the way for visibility of women’s sport and engagement of female fans
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New research from women’s sports charity, the Women’s Sport Trust, has highlighted the leading role tennis plays in driving the visibility of women’s sport, and in particular the platform it provided for Emma Raducanu to capture the nation’s attention and become one of Britain’s most high-profile sportspeople.
The phenomenal national interest generated around Raducanu’s memorable US Open victory is evident from the surge in online traffic, with UK Google searches for Raducanu in a single week in September close to the search numbers for Tom Daley in the whole of 2021, and more than the combined total of all three of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jason Kenny across the entire year.
The Women’s Sport Trust report also highlighted work done by the LTA as a positive example of a sports governing body that has driven gender parity of coverage across social media channels as part of its inclusion strategy for tennis in Britain. This has led to an improvement in a 12-month period of how the women’s game is covered on LTA channels, with it remaining an ongoing focus.
Alongside looking at coverage trends, the research found that tennis has the biggest proportion of female fans. Tennis sits alongside only the Olympics and Paralympics in attracting more female fans than male fans, with the average audience for Wimbledon being 57% females and 43% males. The next highest with just 41% of female fans was the men’s Six Nations, with the average across all other men’s and women’s sports being just 32%.
Female athletes driving viewing peaks
Contrary to the current trend of declining TV viewing hours, women’s sport is actually growing across both free-to-air and Pay-TV channels. However, it’s free-to-air that really makes an impact in bringing new viewers to women’s sport. The research also found that for mixed sport events last year such as tennis and Tokyo 2020, that it was female athletes that drove viewing peaks.
This was demonstrated by the impact Raducanu’s US Open performances had in reaching and engaging new audiences. Broadcast free to air on Channel 4 as well as Amazon Prime, it became the most wated women’s tennis match in Britain in at least 30 years, highlighting the importance of moments likes this being as widely and freely available to the British public as possible in order to maximise impact.
- 2021 US Open Final was the most watched women’s tennis match in Britain in at least 30 years
- Attracted 12.5m viewers with 48% share of 16-34 year olds & 50:50 gender split
- The most streamed tennis match on Amazon Prime Video ever
- Raducanu featured in four of the top ten most visited women’s sport stories on Sky Sports’ website in 2021
- In September 2021, there were 8 million UK Google searches for Raducanu, in comparison to just 250 back in May
- Searches for Raducanu in a single week in September were close to the searches for Tom Daley in the whole of 2021, and more than the combined total of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jason Kenny across the year
- Raducanu now most followed British tennis player on Instagram - only behind Naomi Osaka among global tennis players under 30.
- Rose from less than 10k Instagram followers at the start of 2021, to 2.165m by the end of the year, generating 13.66m interactions on her account – almost four times the interactions on football’s Lionesses’ team account
The research, conducted for the Women’s Sport Trust by Futures Sport and Entertainment, looks at the UK’s media exposure and consumption of women’s sport, men’s sport and mixed sport. It details how this has changed throughout 2021 and predicts record-breaking audiences for 2022.