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Women’s World Cup: Young adults and the power of live TV

On Tuesday last week, England’s Lionesses were knocked out of the World Cup semi-final by the USA in an entertaining 2-1 defeat, which aired on BBC1. So far, the contest is the most watched British television broadcast of the year, with 1.14m 16-34 year old adults tuning in, and an impressive 43.6% share of viewing.

The popularity of women’s football has increased tenfold since the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and the 2019 incarnation has seen increased viewing across all demographics. The steady rise in viewing is set against the backdrop of other big TV events this summer including Love Island, the Cricket World Cup and the African Cup of Nations.

Young adult viewing has risen since the Nation’s League football tournament, which hit on average 332,000 viewers in the 16-34 age group, compared to the 1.14m from the game against the USA. In other audiences, the women’s semi-final viewing was even more impressive, as women’s viewing hit 4.5m viewers on average, only 2.1% less than the men’s World Cup semi-final last year, which had the nation at fever pitch!

The Cricket World Cup meanwhile, has been unable to challenge the Women’s Football World Cup as the summer’s major sporting event. For England’s crunch match against India, programming averaged 490,000 16-34 viewers, with a share of 6.2%; a poor return for a sport hosted in the UK with a traditionally broad appeal. Although Sky has invested large sums into cricket’s broadcasting rights, the low viewing figures highlight the limitations of living behind the paywall.

This summer, young adults viewing has been primarily split between Love Island and the World Cup. Love Island on Tuesday the 2nd July took, on average, 41.7% of the share of viewing whilst England vs the USA was 43.6%; on average 1.9% more share than Love Island. In fact, the Lionesses’ semi-final took a larger proportion of viewing than Love Island across all demographics, highlighting the success of the 2019 World Cup.

All Response Media viewpoint

Young adults have always been an elusive audience, but when there is exciting live content such as the World Cup, you can trust they will be watching. Yes, young adult viewing habits are shifting, but no, they have not stopped watching television. Live TV is still taking the largest share of young adults viewing at 1.6 hours per day, 16% more on average than paid for on-demand video.

In investment terms, young adults are one of the most expensive audiences to appear in front of. But when TV centrepieces like the World Cup and ITV2’s Love Island perform well, producing high impacts, more airtime becomes available. As sales house capacities increase, they can look to increase demand through incentivised rates, as we’ve seen with Love Island this year. Thus, allowing clients to trade against expensive audiences at a discounted price.

So, while live TV might be in decline, don’t neglect young adults in your TV plans, it remains the bedrock of their media consumption and might be just that bit cheaper than you think.

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