By Rachel Steinberg
Georgia Adams isn’t surprised The Hundred led the way in drawing a record 32.9 million viewers to watch domestic women’s sport in 2021—but the Oval Invincibles star was still shocked by how the data broke down.
A report released today by the Women’s Sport Trust also revealed 25%, or 2.7 million viewers, who had watched England women or the women’s edition of the inaugural Hundred didn’t watch a single televised match of men’s cricket last year.
That was the stat that floored even the Southern Vipers and Sussex captain, whose Invincibles side took home their share of the Hundred’s £300,000 prize pot, split evenly between the women’s and men’s competitions last summer.
“I think that’s brilliant,” said Adams, hearing the figures for the first time.
“I’m surprised, actually, but I think that’s a true testament to the Hundred. It just shows how much of an impact it had, because I felt as a player going into the Hundred it was getting a lot of scrutiny.
“It felt like people didn’t want it to work. And I think one of the best decisions that the powers that be made was to play the double-headers, play the women’s games before the men’s games because it got people watching.
“It meant more people came to the live games and I saw the development throughout the tournament, and the shift in mentality of the spectators.
“I was getting feedback from people who had never watched cricket before, going ‘this is brilliant, this has turned me into a huge cricket fan.’
“But also I was getting [people] saying, ‘We’re actually enjoying watching the women’s games more, there’s more skill involved in the women’s game, because you can’t just rely on clearing the ropes. I think we probably have a little bit more balance than the men’s game.”
Researchers Futures Sport and Entertainment found The Hundred attracted the most interest, with cricket achieving 41% of total viewing hours compared to second-placed football with 39%.
They noted, however, that the top-flight Women’s Super League (WSL)’s landmark three-year broadcast deal with Sky Sports and the BBC, estimated to be worth up to £24 million, only began in September.
Major mixed events attracted the highest percentage of female viewership, with Wimbledon and the Tokyo Paralympic Games achieving 57%, followed by the summer Olympics with 52%.
And the free-to-air factor was instrumental to total audience growth, drawing in 19 million new viewers to women’s sport last year, while 79% of females watched exclusively on free-to-air.
All of The Hundred’s matches were broadcast on Sky Sports, but Adams believes that those contests also aired by the BBC, who added to their offering as the tournament proved tremendously popular, were vital.
The stand-alone women’s opener between Adams’ side and Manchester Originals attracted 1.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched game of women’s cricket in network history.
The 28-year-old, who was one of 41 women handed a full-time regional contract in 2020 as part of the new domestic setup, balances full-time cricket with coaching.
And more visibility, she suggested, puts desperately needed role models in the limelight for girls who might only tune in if there are women playing.
“I think the free-to-air broadcasting was hugely, hugely influential in getting people to watch the game,” she said.
“That’s what the women’s game needed, and the Hundred came at the right time off the back of the pandemic.
“People were eager to get out again and for normality to resume, and this new, exciting tournament was free-to-air. It was fundamental in the growth of the women’s game.”
Players also felt the impact directly. Adams’ own social media following grew by about 2000 during the Hundred.
“All of a sudden,” remembered Adams, “I started getting interest from kit suppliers and agents. It really did come as a shock.
“I don’t think any of us going into the tournament really knew how much of an impact it was going to have on women’s cricket. It definitely went above and beyond for all of us.
“It was just the most exciting competition, and fun-filled yet. The exposure we got from it was phenomenal.”
Chelsea women’s Instagram interactions, said the report, were more than those of 12 Premier League teams.
Other findings included promising news for the W Series, the all-female single-seater competition whose second season supported eight Grand Prix weekends.
A total 1.5 million people tuned into the series live—but didn’t watch F1.
And Emma Raducanu saw UK Google searches for her name skyrocket - from 250 in May to 8 million in September - as a result of her winning US Open campaign.