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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Rights Deals Could Boost Women’s Sports into $1B Industry

  • A Deloitte reports predicted that women's sports would become a $1 billion industry in the coming years.
  • Media rights deals have been a clear indicator of the growth in women's sports.
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

A 2020 Deloitte report predicted that women’s sports would become a $1 billion industry in the coming years, with TV rights expected to be one of the main drivers. If history is any indication, that number seems fairly attainable.

The NWSL struck a reported $4.5 million, three-year media rights deal with CBS in 2020 — a huge jump from its early days on YouTube, which only brought in a few thousand viewers. 

With the league’s next set of rights up for grabs in 2023, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said she expects significant growth.

The NWSL’s ratings are nearing — and sometimes exceeding — those of MLS, which just signed a 10-year, more than $2.5 billion broadcasting deal with Apple.

  • CBS drew more than 456,000 viewers for the NWSL preseason match between the San Diego Wave and Los Angeles’ Angel City FC.
  • MLS’ opening match between New England and Portland only brought in 436,000.

Berman clarified that quality broadcasting windows are important for the league’s new deal.

Similarly, ESPN, which previously paid the WNBA $12 million annually, now pays $25 million annually for rights. Their deal is up in 2025 — and the 2021 season saw a 49% viewership increase from 2020.

NCAA Numbers

A NCAA-commissioned Kaplan Report found that the women’s March Madness tournament could have a market value of up to $101 million per year as part of a separate package. The NCAA currently receives $34 million for the women’s tournament and championships in 28 other sports.

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