CNBC reported that live attendance in every major U. S. sport, except pro hockey, has either leveled off or declined over the past three to five years. To illustrate, the crown jewel of American professional sports, the New York Yankees, has seen a decrease of 2,500 fans per game in 2013 and the club sold tickets on Groupon at half price.

Reasons for stagnant attendance encompass the tepid economy, steep ticket/concession prices, proliferation of sports offerings, and the comfort of watching at home on big-screen television sets. Some of these are structural and are not easily addressed via sales and marketing efforts. The quest for compensatory revenues by a sports enterprise, therefore, depends ever-increasingly extent on how successfully it can boost its television ratings and command higher rights fees from broadcasters.

One approach is to augment male-dominated audiences with additional female viewers. Nielsen has found that females currently account for approximately a third of the television audience for the most prominent sporting events, with the number rising to about 46% for the Super Bowl.

Three years ago, the Baltimore Sun wrote of how Robert Evans, chairman and CEO of Churchill Downs, had crafted a marketing plan “after seeing data from NBC Sports that showed…only three major sporting events…have more female viewers than male.” These are the winter and summer Olympics and the Kentucky Derby. In 2013, females comprised 52% of the viewing audience for the Kentucky Derby.

Results of the Evans/NBC strategy are evident. The 2010 Kentucky Derby attracted the largest television audience since 1989 and the 2013 Derby telecast drew nearly as many viewers as in 2010. The recently signed multi-year agreement between the brand-new Fox Sports 1 and the Jockey Club to televise a series of graded stakes, beginning in 2014, presents the opportunity for the fledgling cable network to capitalize on a proven strategy.

Copyright © 2013 The Blood-Horse. Used with permission.