Thursday November 30, 2023

Don’t Ignore the Numbers

  • From Stanford women’s basketball to UCLA softball, the Pac-12 has some of the most successful women’s sports programs in the country.
  • In the last few years, they’ve grown in popularity. And they’re already generating significant revenue.
Photo: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY/Design: Alex Brooks
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From Stanford women’s basketball to UCLA softball, the Pac-12 has some of the most successful women’s sports programs in the country. In the last few years, they’ve grown in popularity. And they’re already generating significant revenue.

USC made about $18.6 million in revenue from women’s sports in 2018-19, according to Department of Education data. Oregon State made about $15.7 million, and Washington State made $8.7 million. Of all Pac-12 schools, only two reported less than $3 million in revenue from women’s sports teams.

“It is not the case that there are only two revenue sports,” Berri said. 

Who’s Watching

The NCAA women’s tournament notched several viewership milestones, some of which directly correlated with ESPN putting games on higher-visibility channels (think ABC vs. ESPN2). 

The Final Four — which included Arizona and Stanford — garnered 14% more average viewers than it did in 2019, according to Sports Media Watch

The championship game had more than twice the audience of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, which was shown in prime time directly after, per SMW.

It’s not just basketball, either. This year, ESPN aired the women’s gymnastics final, which featured Utah, on ABC for the first time. The final had more average viewers than any gymnastics event since 2011, according to SMW, and a 510% increase over 2019. 

And while the 2021 Women’s College World Series hasn’t started yet, its 2019 ratings showed major growth: The championship series, including UCLA, was up 13% and averaged 1.57 million viewers. 

Who’s Going

As fans return to stadiums, it’s unclear how behavior may change. But if the pre-pandemic numbers for Pac-12 women’s sports attendance are any indication, the demand will return.

In 2019, the Pac-12 saw five softball teams rank in the top 20 for average attendance: Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, and Washington, NCAA data shows. The conference also had three basketball teams in the top 20 — and that didn’t include Stanford, the 2021 champions.

What’s more, in 2020, Utah women’s gymnastics set the NCAA single-season attendance record for the sport.

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