Blythe Hastings ’23
The first-ever network to focus on female athletes, the Women’s Sports Network, launched Wednesday, offering 24/7 streaming of original programming, competitions, documentaries, and a daily studio show called Game On. The Women’s Sports Network is a free, ad-supported network featured on streaming services including Amazon’s Freevee, Fox Corp-owned Tubi, FuboTV, and smart TVs.
The new network comes at a time when investment and viewership numbers for women’s sports are on the rise, yet women only receive a small fraction of media coverage. “It’s a significant step towards narrowing the gap in media coverage for female athletes, for female sports,” said Angela Ruggiero, CEO and co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab and four-time ice hockey Olympian, who is on the board of advisors for the new network. The network was first announced back in February by Los Angeles-based Fast Studios. “2022 has been a significant year. We’ve looked back to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, but I think what Women’s Sports Network shows … there’s a real focus on what the next 50 years are going to look like,” said Jon Patricof, CEO and co-founder of women’s sports league network Athletes Unlimited. The Women’s Sports Network has partnerships with the Women’s National Basketball Association, Women’s Football Alliance, Ladies Professional Golf Association, U.S. Ski and Snowboard, Sports Innovation Lab and World Surf League, among others. It plans to broadcast games starting in January. Fast Studios was founded in 2020 by long-time ad executive Stuart McLean with a focus on ad-supported streaming television services. Fast Studios has also launched streaming networks focused on auto racing and spartan obstacle course competitions.
This past year has seen a steady rise in viewership numbers for women’s sports. The WNBA postseason saw a 22% increase in viewership year over year. Female athletes at the collegiate level are also proving to be winners in the NIL era, garnering deals with brands including Nike—now that college athletes can be paid for their name, image, and likeness. Yet women’s sports receive only 5% of media coverage, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California and Purdue University. “The Women’s Sports Network is exactly what athletes, fans, and sponsors have been asking for,” Mollie Marcoux Samaan, commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, said in a release announcing the network launch. Traditional networks have put little effort into promoting women’s sports, with the National Research Group and Ampere Analysis finding that U.S. broadcast networks spent 0.2% of media-rights budgets on women’s-only sporting events (excluding events with both men’s and women’s sports such as the Olympics). This is now set to change with the release of Game On.