Women’s sports executives weigh in on parity, media and NIL

Guard Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes listens as the crowd cheers after breaking the NCAA women’s all-time scoring record during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on February 15, 2024 in Iowa City, Iowa. 

Matthew Holst | Getty Images

Women’s sports reached an inflection point in 2023, propelled by major new broadcast deals, once-in-a-lifetime players and record-breaking audiences that dramatically changed the sports landscape.

From Caitlin Clark fever in Iowa to a packed house of 92,000 fans for women’s volleyball in Nebraska, women’s sports have never been more at the forefront.

And it’s not slowing down.

Revenue generated by women’s elite sports could surpass $1 billion this year, a 300% increase from 2021, according to estimates from Deloitte.

Bigger media deals and more commercial sponsors are driving record valuations for women’s sports, with several teams’ values expected to exceed $100 million in 2024, according to Deloitte.

Last year saw record media deals for women’s sports as the NCAA and NWSL both inked groundbreaking agreements. And investors from private equity to celebrities are lining up to get in the game.

Yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done, specifically, in the areas of equal pay, prime-time access and even the need for more historical data.

CNBC surveyed some of the most high-powered women executives in sports, ranging from league commissioners to team owners and CEOs, to hear their thoughts on the state of women in sports. Some of their answers have been edited for style, clarity and length.

What do you see as the primary obstacle hindering the growth of women’s sports?

Renie Anderson, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for the NFL: The obstacle, or really the opportunity, for today is to continue to amplify the spectacular athleticism of these women. Rather than be shocked and surprised that women are spectacular at sport, we need to do a better job of weaving in the message of greatness when highlighting the greatness in men’s sports. It’s there. It just doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Jessica Berman, National Women’s Soccer League Commissioner

Jesse Grant | CNBC

Jessica Berman, commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League: Because the world has woken up to women’s sports, the expectations on how fast this can grow, from all stakeholders, is really challenging. We’re 100 years behind men’s sports, and so it’s not to say that we should move slowly. It is to say that it is challenging to sort of build the plane as quickly as so many stakeholders expect it to be built — and to do it in a way that’s sustainable and commercially viable.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks to the media to award Breanna Stewart #30 of the New York Liberty with the 2023 Kia WNBA Most Valuable Player Award before the game against the Connecticut Sun during round two game two of the 2023 WNBA playoffs on September 26, 2023 in Brooklyn, New York. 

David Dow | Getty Images


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Women’s sports executives weigh in on parity, media and NIL

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