Stacy Bauman grew up in the 1980s and ’90s. The only time the former sports journalist saw female athletes on television was during the Olympics. Now, Bauman manages the Women’s Intersport Network for Kansas City (WIN for KC), an organization dedicated to empowering girls and women through sports and fitness.
Times are changing and women’s sports are surging.
“Almost every Friday night, we can turn on the TV and we can watch women’s basketball,” Bauman said of the evolving landscape. “We can watch any gymnastics event. We can watch women’s soccer.”
The 2023 Women’s World Cup final earlier this month saw record numbers of television viewers watch as Spain defeated England, 1-0, capping off a tournament that drew record numbers of fans at the stadiums in Australia and New Zealand.
It’s a worldwide trend that’s also felt nationally. This year’s NCAA women’s championship became the most-watched women’s college basketball game in television history, with 9.9 million viewers. Two weeks later, the NCAA women’s gymnastics championship brought in just over a million viewers, breaking a 16-year viewership record for the sport.
With so much to watch and even more female athletes to follow, a new network emerged less than a year ago to cover it all. In November 2022, the Women’s Sports Network (WSN) launched as the first-ever 24-hour streaming network dedicated to women’s sports. Partnering with 12 professional women’s sports leagues, including the WNBA and the LPGA, the network broadcasts games and produces original programming, including a daily studio show called “Game On.”
“It’s amazing. It’s needed,” said Keyser Santana, who participates in a recreational sports league in Phoenix called OutLoud Sports. “It’s about damn time.”
Many broadcast attempts devoted to women’s sports have failed. However, due to societal changes, an increase in the popularity of women’s sports and advancements in technology, industry leaders agree the time is right for the Women’s Sports Network.
Bauman’s childhood followed the birth of Title IX in 1972. The landmark legislation prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives federal funding. Fifty years later, it has significantly helped increase gender equality in sports and grow women’s sports.
The legacy of Title IX can be seen through the work of Carol Stiff. A former college basketball and field hockey player and coach, Stiff joined ESPN in 1990 and pioneered bringing women’s college basketball and the WNBA to the network. She retired as ESPN’s vice president of Women’s Sports Programming in 2021 and now chairs the Women’s Sports Network advisory board.