all scores

NCAA volleyball title game latest sign of ratings surge in women’s sports


If you build it, they will come.

That’s what the theme seems to be surrounding women’s sports.

According to ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe, the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament title match drew 696,000 viewers on Saturday night, making it the most-viewed show on ESPN2 this month. It also marks a significant increase in viewership — 28 percent — over the 2019 women’s volleyball championship.

The 2017 and 2018 title matches drew more viewers than this year’s. However, sports television ratings have been down in general since the beginning of the pandemic and the number does not appear to include digital streams, so the fact that volleyball is reporting positive numbers is still a good sign.

For comparison, ESPN’s broadcast of New York Mets-Chicago Cubs last week drew 630,000 viewers. It was the most-watched weekday MLB game on ESPN since Opening Day, and yet it averaged roughly 66,000 fewer viewers than the volleyball national championship.

This comes amid a ratings surge for many other women’s sports that have received exposure from national networks and streaming services.

The NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship on April 17 drew the sport’s biggest television audience since 2011, according to Sports Media Watch. Broadcast on ABC for the first time, the event averaged 808,000 viewers, up 510 percent from 2019.

Over four million people tuned in to watch Stanford beat Arizona in the April 4 national championship game for women’s basketball, marking a 10.5 percent increase over 2019. The two semifinal games did even better, averaging 2.2 million viewers for a 22 percent increase over the ratings from 2019.

Viewership for the 2020 WNBA season was up 68 percent over 2019, and the NWSL shattered viewership records during the 2020 Challenge Cup, up 493 percent from the year before. Those increases can be attributed to more games being broadcast on major networks, with the WNBA airing on ESPN and ABC and the NWSL reaching a new deal with CBS.

Similar trends can be found on social media. A survey done during the men’s and women’s Elite Eight showed that eight of the 10 players with the biggest social media followings were women. Among them were UConn breakout star Paige Bueckers, who has over 800,000 Instagram followers following her team’s tournament run.