A gen­er­a­tion that came of age with soc­cer and women’s sports now tun­ing in to World Cup

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

A gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can women who grew up play­ing sports be­cause of Ti­tle IX now makes up the tele­vi­sion au­di­ence that ad­ver­tis­ers covet.

To­day’s adults were young, im­pres­sion­able fans when Brandi Chas­tain ripped off her jersey to celebrate the win­ning penalty kick at the 1999 Women’s World Cup, and even ear­lier when the buzz of soc­cer landed in the United States for the 1994 men’s tour­na­ment.

Now those grown-ups are tun­ing in to this Women’s World Cup — with their kids along­side.

View­er­ship is up big for this sum­mer’s tour­na­ment, with a ma­jor as­sist com­ing sim­ply from ge­og­ra­phy. With the event in Canada, the most im­por­tant games air in prime time in the U.S. on Fox’s net­works dur­ing the first North Amer­i­can Women’s World Cup since 2003.

But pat­terns within the view­er­ship num­bers re­flect deeper trends for in­ter­est in soc­cer in gen­eral and the women’s sport in par­tic­u­lar.

A sig­nif­i­cant source of au­di­ence growth comes from what may seem like a sur­pris­ing place: fe­male fans. Among men ages 25- 54, view­er­ship is up a healthy 21 per cent from the 2011 tour­na­ment in Ger­many — but it’s risen a whop­ping 91 per cent among women in that de­mo­graphic.

When soc­cer was more of a niche sport, it made for an audi- ence that was pre­dom­i­nantly male. The more main­stream it moves, the broader the in­ter­est. The view­er­ship growth for last sum­mer men’s World Cup was also boosted by more women tun­ing in.

The au­di­ence for this Women’s World Cup is 38 per cent fe­male, still well be­low half but higher than the one-third or so typ­i­cally seen for ma­jor U.S. sports. The av­er­age women’s col­lege bas­ket­ball game dur­ing the 2013-14 sea­son had 39 per cent fe­male view­er­ship, com­pared with 31 per cent for men’s bas­ket­ball, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen. Mike Mul­vi­hill, Fox Sports’ se­nior vice-pres­i­dent for pro­gram­ming and re­search, sus­pects wider so­ci­etal trends are also draw­ing more women to the tour­na­ment. Ti­tle IX, the ed­u­ca­tional gen­der-eq­uity law that led to the surge of girls sports, passed in 1972.

Sun­day’s re­match of the 2011 fi­nal kicks off at 7 p.m. on Fox on the night of the week with the largest avail­able au­di­ence for TV.

CP PHOTO

In this June 30 file photo, U.S. fans cheer on the team be­fore the team’s semi­fi­nal against Ger­many in the Women’s World Cup soc­cer tour­na­ment in Mon­treal, Canada. With many matches in prime time, this Women’s World Cup has set all sorts of TV view­er­ship records in the U.S. Sun­day’s fi­nal could break some more.

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