Women’s World Cup semifinal breaks TV viewing record in Australia

Updated Aug 17, 2023, 10:35am EDT
August 16, 2023 England's Georgia Stanway in action with Australia's Hayley Raso and Clare Polkinghorne REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Jenna Moon/

Australia had a new TV viewing record when its team, the Matildas, lost to England’s Lionesses in the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Wednesday. At one point in the broadcast, 11.15 million viewers tuned in and the game saw an average national audience of 7.13 million viewers.

This is just the ninth women’s championship — but it is far and away the most popular since its launch in 1991.

"This isn't a woman's football achievement, it's a football achievement,"1 said an Australian TV executive. Of the 6,000 soccer games Australian telecom company Optus has broadcast, the semifinal against the Lionesses had the fourth-highest viewership ever on its platforms. "When you’re comparing this incredible history, these incredible games, you’re comparing it to seven years of football history," the Optus executive said.

Women faced a 20-year battle for a World Cup of their own. Before the first women's tournament kicked off in China in 1991, players had to compete in unofficial tournaments. In one of these underground finals, played in Mexico, the goal posts were painted pink.2

In recent years, women's soccer has shifted to an entity of its own, and is no longer seen as "hand-me-down version of men's football," sports sociologist Ali Bowes said.3 Women have had an uphill battle to obtain the same recognition as mens' teams, and in years past couldn't access the same quality equipment or uniforms. As recently as 2017, the Irish women's team threatened to strike, alleging they were treated as "fifth-class citizens" and that they shared their kit with the youth teams.4

This year's World Cup has broken several records. Nearly 2 million tickets have been sold, FIFA said, and 53.9 million viewers tuned in to watch China's match against England. Overall, this year's tournament in Australia and New Zealand has seen viewership increase by nearly a third of what was recorded in France in 2019.5