If “women’s sports in general [are] not worth watching,” as Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit infamously posited this week (he later apologized, but still got called out by Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler), there are a lot of viewers who disagree. The Women’s World Cup has been drawing incredible ratings in the U.S. and around the globe, and it’s not alone. The championship series of the softball Women’s College World Series, which aired on ESPN from June 1-3 and saw Florida beat Michigan, outdrew the championship series of the baseball men’s College World Series, which also aired on ESPN from June 22-24 and saw Virginia beat Vanderbilt, and it did so by 31 per cent. Here’s how the numbers break down:
It’s remarkable to see the women’s games not only draw a substantially higher three-game average, but a higher rating for every game. The only men’s game that beat even one women’s game was the finale, and it only edged Game 1 on the women’s side. This isn’t entirely explained by competition, either; while the men’s series did go head-to-head with Women’s World Cup matches for its first two games (including the record-setting U.S. – Colombia game during Game 1), it had a pretty clear night for its finale, and the women’s series finale drew incredible numbers despite going head to head with the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. Moreover, Game 1 of the women’s series was the most-watched Game 1 ever, and Game 2 was the best-rated Game 2 since 2007.
The championship ratings also build on what was a strong Women’s College World Series for ESPN overall. The Worldwide Leader posted its #1 and #2 most-viewed bracket-round games this year, with LSU – Michigan averaging 1,950,000 viewers (yes, better than even games 1 and 2 of the championship series) on Sunday, May 31 and UCLA – Auburn pulling in 1,612,000 on Saturday May 30. ESPN networks also averaged 1,055,000 viewers for the 12 games of the entire bracket round, the second-best number in the time they’ve been televising this (since 1997), behind only 2011. Those are excellent numbers, and they confirm that this wasn’t just some fluke about the two teams that made it to the championship series. Indeed, the entire tournament did very well, suggesting that there are many out there who do find women’s sports worth watching.