On Tuesday night, Iowa women's basketball phenom Caitlin Clark hit a shot at the buzzer to help her squad beat Michigan State in a nationally televised matchup before a sold-out crowd of nearly 15,000.
It's the kind of scene that might have been unthinkable decades ago, but is becoming more common. New research shows that women's sports are becoming popular but still have a way to go to catch up to men's sports.
Researchers from the Ohio State University and Mississippi State University published their findings in the Journal of Emerging Sports Studies. Their findings show that over half of U.S. adults spent some time "consuming female sports content." This could mean that someone attended or watched a women's sporting event or merely watched highlights of a game.
The study found that U.S. adults spend an hour a week consuming female sports content, a figure higher than researchers expected.
“It’s not just people who are passionate and invested who consume girls’ and women’s sports,” said Chris Knoester, co-author of the study. “Sometimes it’s parents watching their daughters play soccer, or sports fans who are flipping through channels looking for something to watch, or a person who reads about female sports stars.”
The researchers estimated the amount of time spent watching female sports by using the total hours of watching/following sports.
Researchers also noted that men tended to be bigger consumers of female sports than women. Researchers hypothesized that men are more avid sports viewers than women and, thus, more likely to tune in.
"We did find some evidence that men disproportionately consume more total hours of female sports than women do, which is really striking,” Knoester said.
What wasn't surprising to researchers was that male sports are far more popular among Americans.
“Even though women’s sports receive less than 5% of all sports media coverage, according to some estimates, our results suggest that the interest may be larger than assumed,” Knoester said.
The study also looked at the role having female athletes in a family had on the consumption of women's sports.
"We also found that having more girl or women family members, including specifically mothers who were highly involved with sport, is often associated with greater consumption of girls’ and women’s sport," the authors wrote in the study. "This pattern may reflect how girls’ and women’s sport has been marketed in the U.S. as an 'empowering' product for girls and women."
The research, the authors said, could be helpful for those marketing women's sports to reach broader audiences.
The study comes after Deloittesaid in November that women's sports is expected to generate $1.28 billion in global revenue in 2024, which is nearly three times more than what was generated in 2021.
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