Student researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada sought to determine the influence of the sport media by examining Generation Y and its interpretation of mediated messages in female sport. The results shed light on attitudes surrounding women’s sport and how the media influences consumption habits.
The researchers specifically chose to study Generation Y’s perceptions because of their established influence on societal trends-the future direction of sport will largely depend on this generation. They have been raised in a culture obsessed with sport and have had more opportunities to participate in and consume sport than any previous generation.
The twenty-four participants recruited for this study were divided into four gender-specific focus groups. Prior to meeting, participants were given a brief survey regarding their interest in sport and asked to describe how often and by what means (such as tv, radio, or live) they consume sport. During the focus group sessions, the participants were asked questions that focused on their general perceptions of women’s sport, perceptions of the quantity and quality of media coverage given to women’s sport, and how the media’s treatment of women’s sports affect sport consumption habits. Discussions were transcribed verbatim, inputted in the NVivo data-analysis software program, and analyzed for emergent themes throughout the sessions.
The analysis showed that women’s sport was viewed as less exciting, slower paced, and less dramatic than men’s sport. Participants held that women’s sport lacked the "awe factor" of men’s sports and that women would constantly be trailing to catch up to the accomplishments of their male counterparts. Most participants admitted they had very little familiarity with women’s sport and that their experiences were primarily limited to what little coverage was offered through the media-they weren’t going out and hunting for the information but were relying on what was presented.
All of the Generation Y focus groups agreed that the overall quality of women’s sports coverage in the media is lower than the quality of coverage for men’s sports. In addition, the participants agreed that while the commentators for men’s sports develop intriguing commentaries to keep viewers engaged in the game, the commentaries for women’s sports are often dull and boring. The men’s sports are filled with statistics, letting viewers know exactly where one player stands in comparison with others. In contrast, women’s sports very rarely include their statistics.
The implications of this research indicate that Generation Y viewers are open to consuming women’s sport, but that the media needs to present them as equally compelling to men’s sport. By improving coverage and fostering an exciting environment for women’s sport, society will take an important step in closing the divide in this area.