In what feels like an incredibly long-awaited move, female athletes are finally getting the recognition they deserve when it comes to media exposure. On Wednesday 2 November, the Women’s Sports Network was launched—offering 24/7 streaming of programming, competitions, documentaries, and more.
According to CNBC, The Women’s Sports Network is a free, ad-supported network featured on streaming services including Amazon, Freevee, Fox Corp, FuboTV, and smart TVs. Planning to start broadcasting games in January 2023, the network already has partnerships with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Women’s Football Alliance, Ladies Professional Golf Association, US Ski and Snowboard, Sports Innovation Lab, and World Surf League, among others.
“It’s a significant step towards narrowing the gap in media coverage for female athletes, for female sports,” Angela Ruggiero, CEO and co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab, four-time ice hockey Olympian and board advisor, told the news outlet.
As numerous publications have noted, this comes as a welcome move since media coverage of female athletes remains incredibly low, despite a surge in viewership and interest in women’s sports.
In 2018, the charity Women in Sport released a research report exposing the lack of visibility of female sport in the media. The report examined: “How well the media represents women’s sport across the five countries and from this evidence base, challenge the current situation with journalists, broadcasters, and the sector as a whole, to understand how best to drive change.”
The report’s ultimate findings were that not only is women’s sport shown significantly less than men’s sport, its coverage failed to achieve above 10 per cent of all sport’s coverage in any single monitoring period. One of the primary considerations the charity recommended was to introduce networks which would broadcast content specifically catered to fans of women’s sports.
Gender imbalance has existed within this industry for far too long. Female athletes deserve to receive the same benefits and exposure as their male counterparts. The Lioness’ triumphant victory during the Women’s EURO 2022 was a tremendous achievement for gender equality within football. Now, we need TV muscle to continue this momentum.
Ruggiero, later on in her interview with CNBC, also emphasised this by stating, “Every men’s league has had decades of a jumpstart on the traditional women’s leagues.”
She continued: “There’s a pent-up demand for women’s sports, but women’s sports typically go under-invested, under-supported, under-viewed, because the ecosystem underneath it hasn’t really been built.”
Hopefully, this new network will mark a positive shift towards genuine, equal representation.