August 12, 2010

THE MARKET IS A HARSH MISTRESS:

Take Back the Sports Page?: The political wing of the women’s sports movement is in trouble. These activists are accustomed to challenging timid bureaucrats and university administrators. But in taking on TV sports coverage, they are challenging the market itself. (Christina Hoff Sommers, August 12, 2010, The American)

Since 1989, the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California (USC) has published a study of “Gender in Televised Sports” every five years. The latest report has just been released and the Women’s Victim Industrial Complex is reeling from the findings. “Shocking,” says the Women’s Sports Foundation.

According to the report, coverage of women’s professional teams has “nearly evaporated” and a “deepening silence” has enveloped women’s professional soccer, basketball, golf, field hockey, and softball. “Nothing short of stunning” says author Michael Messner, a feminist sociologist at USC. “This is simply intolerable.”

National Public Radio sports commentator Diana Nyad, a celebrated distance swimming champion, was moved to write a special introduction to the latest report: “Women’s athletic skill levels have risen astronomically over the past twenty years ... It is time for television news and highlights shows to keep pace with this revolution.” She describes the neglect of women’s sports as “unfathomable and unacceptable.” [...]

Even women prefer watching male teams. Few women follow the sports pages and ESPN, but many enjoy attending live games—featuring male athletes. According to Sports Business Daily, 31 percent of the NFL’s “avid fans” are women.

Nyad and the USC study authors demand that television cover women’s sports “fairly and equitably,” but the study never once mentions the word “attendance.” Shouldn’t fan interest in the games drive the media stories? Economist Mark Perry, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, looked at the numbers. For the 2009 season, the NBA got 92.3 percent of the total attendance for pro basketball (NBA plus WNBA), while the WNBA got only 7.7 percent of the total attendance (see chart below). But according to the USC study, the WNBA received 22.2 percent of the coverage. Perry’s conclusion: “So women’s pro basketball got a hugely disproportionate share of media coverage. Total attendance at NBA games was 12 times greater than attendance at the WNBA games, but media coverage was only 3.5 times greater for men than for women.”


The WNBA may be the most popular thing among lesbians since Doc Martens, but that's a pretty small demographic.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 12, 2010 6:14 AM
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