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I’m still waiting for my close up…

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And many female athletes will continue to wait as well. It is no secret that women in sports notoriously receive a significantly less amount of media coverage than male athletes do. We’re used to that, right? We get less of everything in life like our paychecks, right?

I’m impatiently waiting for the 2016 Olympics in Rio so I’ve been watching clips of past Olympics games and USA athletes such as Michael Phelps, Shawn Johnson, Shaun White, Ryan Lochte, Gabby Douglas and the list goes on. But the one thing I noticed is the coverage of these athletes, not just specifically these five athletes, but of women and men as a whole, is uneven.

Let’s talk Olympics…

Olympic RingsThe viewership of the Olympics is fairly even between men and women tuning in to the games, but then again, who doesn’t want to watch America kick butt?! But what were the men and women watching? Well it turns out that women want to watch “women” sports. According to a study conducted by two professors at the University of Delaware and the Youth Program Director for San Antonio Sports, women want to watch non-contact, gender neutral sports, but its not because they don’t want to see the violence in something such as rugby or hockey. Women want to know the emotional backstories that are broadcasted about the athletes playing. Women want a reason to watch and an opportunity to connect with those on TV.

According to Nielsen, 56 percent of the 2010 Olympic viewers were women, but only 41.4 percent of Olympic coverage was devoted to female athletes. This may not seem like a lot but this is a significant higher number than it has been for the past 20 years. Olympic events such as alpine skiing and snowboarding have more equal coverage of the genders, but when it comes to figure skating, females take the gold in media coverage and in freestyle skiing, men take the gold in media coverage.

Is it realistic to expect 50/50 media coverage in the Olympics? I think it depends. I think there are too many factors that play into the media coverage such as the countries in the event, the quality of the home country’s participants and medalists. As an American, I don’t think I had much interest in coverage of Ukraine versus Russia in Women’s Curling, but if USA was playing, I’d want to watch. I wouldn’t care to watch the gymnast finals if USA wasn’t competing and so on. So should the media coverage depend on the year, the athletes and the events? Or should media coverage strive to be 50/50 in coverage of a co-ed event? What about sports as a whole?

Let’s talk ESPN…

Let’s say that 40 percent of all athletes are female and only receive 4 percent of media coverage. (Which is true). How do you think ESPN covers females?

It is no secret that ESPN is the leader in sports broadcasting. ESPN dominates sports TV with 7 stations always playing sports related shows or features.

The channels are:

  • ESPN
  • ESPN2
  • ESPN3
  • ESPN News
  • ESPN Classic
  • ESPN Deportes

What gender do you think ESPN covers more frequently? If you said male, you are correct.

I took a look at the primetime schedule for six ESPN channels over the next week and found an astoundingly low number of women’s sports being broadcasted live. I did not include ESPN3 because ESPN3 features many different live events at the same time to stream online.

There are ZERO women’s live sporting events featured on ESPN during primetime. Which is even less than the video states, although the video wasn’t concerned with only primetime media coverage. The only time viewers can find a women’s game during prime time is on ESPN3, broadcasting on their smartphone or tablet.

If you want to see for yourself, just visit ESPN.

As a woman who loves sports, I would rather watch a men’s basketball game over a women’s basketball game. But this doesn’t mean I don’t want to watch women’s sports at all.

Only 11 WNBA games are broadcasted in a whole season on national TV. There are more than 11 NBA games a week that are nationally televised.

2015 Nationally Televised WNBA Games

Why is this? Is this because no one cares? Do you care? What are your opinions on the media coverage of female athletes?

Check out my blog Girls and the Game and let me know what you have to say.

Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Lindsay Miller

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