Digital Revolution? Persisting Gender Inequalities in Digital Sports Broadcasting: The case of FIFA TV on YouTube

The digital revolution has been heralded as a transformative force in terms of the relationship between sport and media, especially what concerns sports broadcasting, women’s sport, and the long standing gender inequalities. The arrival of new digital media such as social media platforms (eg YouTube) have been received with enthusiasm in regards of democratisation of content production and consumption, and were predicted to disrupt the status quo by providing more space for women’s sport. But, is that the case?

While researching for a book chapter I wrote on the business of FIFA and their digital and social media presence I decided to collect data from FIFA TV on YouTube. As Burgess and Green (2018) argue, YouTube operates in a multi-sided market (platformisation) by balancing the interests of different stakeholders such as amateur and professional content creators, media partners and advertisers. In a way, there are at least two YouTube in operation, one being the original ‘Broadcast Yourself’ and the other an alternative to traditional sports broadcasting on TV with professionally created on-demand and live content. FIFA TV falls into this second category by offering football fans a myriad of content, from short format remediated videos to live streaming events (in this post here I discuss more in detail how YouTube disrupts traditional sport broadcasting).

In terms of gender inequalities in digital sports broadcasting on YouTube I have compared two pairs of video playlists: one being the original content produced for the Men’s and Women’s FIFA World Cup {FIFA World Cup | Original Content and FIFA Women’s World Cup | Original Content}; and the second the games’ highlights of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia {2018 FIFA World Cup | Match Highlights and FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 | Match Highlights}.

What the analyses showed was that on absolute terms Men’s videos outperformed Women’s videos in all metrics (view count, likes, dislikes, comments, total engagement). For instance, assuming that view count is the most important metric – as consumption on YouTube still follows the traditional passive TV broadcasting model (see my post here) – we can still see how gender inequalities persist on digital sport broadcasting. In a way, the digital revolution has not disrupted this form of consuming sport.

FIFA TV Playlist (YouTube)Number of VideosAverage View Count
FIFA World Cup | Original Content44288,408
FIFA Women’s World Cup | Original Content1131,132
2018 FIFA World Cup | Match Highlights6418,924,712
2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup | Match Highlights522,738,257
View Count metric from FIFA TV on YouTube

Nevertheless, when using relative metrics such as likes by views and dislikes by views what we see is a different picture in terms of gender inequalities in sports media. For instance, Women’s videos outperform Men’s videos in likes by views in the FIFA World Cup Match Highlights on a statistically significant level (<.001), and are statistically similar on the Original Content (.768)

FIFA TV Playlist (YouTube)Likes by Views
FIFA World Cup | Original Content0.2590
FIFA Women’s World Cup | Original Content0.2584
2018 FIFA World Cup | Match Highlights0.0055
2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup | Match Highlights0.0066
Likes by views metric from FIFA TV on YouTube

Hence, it is possible to argue that digital revolution has not completely disrupted the traditional relationship between media and sport that reinforces gender inequalities (see this post for an analysis on gender inequalities in sport print media). In spite of that, there are some positive signs as women’s videos have received more likes by views indicating that there is an important, loyal, and more favourably engaged audience than on men’s football.

Maybe those patterns of continuities and discontinuities (see this post for a discussion on continuities and discontinuities on digital media) found on FIFA’s YouTube channel are early indicators of a more equitable production and consumption of content.

What do you think? Would we be able to witness gender equality in sports media in the near future?

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