Social media and eSports: the future for women’s sport recognition?

My recent blog posts have explored the past and present forms of sports media ecology and their effects on the broadcast of women’s sport. To follow on from that, this blog is going to analyse the future of sports broadcasting outlets and their role on making women’s sport more widely recognised.

Social media has become a popular new form of sports media ecology, as the interpersonal nature of this media outlet has appealed to many sports fans, athletes, sports teams and media providers (Creedon, 2014). Compared to older forms of sports media ecology, social media has been deemed to provide a more complex and involving experience for sports fans (Vann, 2014). Conversation is initiated on social media platforms, advancing from the one-way communication traditional media outlets give, which allows for consumers to voice their opinions and create user-generated content.

When it comes to women’s football, former Arsenal and England football player Kelly Smith stated that the impact of social media has had more positive than negative effects on women’s football. This is due to the fact that women’s footballers have been able to grow their social profiles which has helped promote the sport (Smith, 2019). The FA Women’s Super League games are also now available to be streamed live on Facebook, which is a huge step for women’s football as previously only the FA Cup Final was broadcast on television, meaning fans would have had to physically go to a game in order to watch the match (Smith, 2019). This fact alone has proved that social media is already benefitting women’s sports by allowing them to be broadcast to an audience rather than neglected by other media outlets.

Electronic sports, otherwise known as eSports, have become a popular sports media ecology medium in recent years, especially recently due to the lack of live televised sports due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ruvalcaba defines eSports as the competitive play of video games in public settings. Games are played either online or in person and are usually streamed online for spectators to watch. eSports have reconceptualised sports by providing them in a digitalised way (Ruvalcaba, 2018). Due to the wide accessibility of eSports, anyone can participate and compete in eSports events, however, like in traditional sport, there are amateur and professional leagues.

eSports has the potential to be the first professional sport to reach equality between genders. This is due to the lack of physical exertion, therefore meaning that women and men can play against each other. Studies show that 30% of eSports viewership is comprised by women, and 35% of eSport gamers are women. This number is growing as more and more women are discovering eSports and mastering the games. However, there is a stigma behind women playing video games and there is often harassment and discrimination towards women who play (Bondy, 2020). This has lead to some female players not disclosing their gender in order to avoid any verbal abuse (Bondy, 2020). Below is a really insightful video about the challenges that female eSports competitors face.

In terms of the future for women’s sports broadcast and recognition, I think that social media has the potential to overtake television when it comes to consumer preference of the broadcast of sports due to the accessibility and ease of the medium. This also helps women’s sports become more recognised and promotes the broadcast of many other women’s sports as there are no channel limits. eSports has the potential to become very popular due to the inclusivity, however, there is discussion around whether eSports should be classed as a sport as there is no physical exertion when playing (Kane and Spradley, 2017). Therefore, I think that there is still blurred lines when linking eSports and professional sport.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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