Only Two Things - Divergent Opinions on espnW

As you  may have heard,  ESPN is planning to launch a new brand. It'll start out online  - with a blog, social media and mobile elements - and it'll be known as espnW.  The focus will be sports programming for women.   It's a concept that's been incubating for a while with the "worldwide leader in sports" and the idea is that if things go well espnW will eventually sit side-by-side with ESPN2, U, Classic and News.

On the surface, it sounds awesome.  In the golf media realm we regularly lament the lack of coverage allocated to our talented female players, and unfortunately the situation is even worse in other sports. One can only surmise that this lack of coverage perpetuates a lack of interest, which perpetuates a lack of participation.. and maintains the vicious circle that keeps women's sports coverage in the shadows.

Surprisingly however, there have been divergent responses to the concept of a female-focused sports news brand... and there appears to be a hearty dose of scepticism on the part of some of those who've been the biggest advocates for the promotion of womens sports.  ~ What some fear is that the new network will be a fluffy, pink, fairy-princess version of the current ESPN; a girlied-up sub-brand, featuring programing that would pander to... and perpetuate... the idea that women only really like sports with sequins and sparkles.

USA Today reported some interesting facts in relation to this story.  The one I found most ...disconcerting... was that the ESPN produced programming that currently attracts the biggest percentage of female viewers is... wait till you hear this... The National Spelling Bee!  ~ Some people actually question whether or not golf is a sport, but... spelling?

That statistic alone conjures up images of a huge Mars/Venus dichotomy as in:  men like to slouch on recliners and couches, with beer and chips and buffalo wings loudly cheering an action packed game on a big screen... while women are entertained by a slow parade of polished children, laboriously stringing together vowels and consonants. And there's no need for a comfortable couch,  or a large screens or a plate of salty snacks, because the ladies are probably ironing while they watch. 

That's certainly not what ESPN has in mind. Their goal with espnW is nothing short of "a whole new world for women athletes and fans" and the focus will be on "cultivating a national sports conversation for women." To that end the espnW retreat was held recently at Torrey Pines to exchange ideas and lay the foundation for this new brand. Attendees included athletes from a wide array of sports, as well as sports marketers and ESPN executives.

And that brings us to our subject:  Do we really want or need a female-focused sports news brand... and eventually a network ? Exactly what market will it serve and how should it be executed?  That's what we'll be talking about tonight on Only Two Things.   ~ Ethan Johnson from Mister Women's Sports will be joining us and we hope to hear from an number of others who blog about women's sports. You can join the conversation too... on-air... by using our call-in number, which is: 917-889-9592. Or weigh in at the chat room or on Twitter... or just have a listen at Blog Talk Radio.
We'll be live from 9:30 - 10:30 ET.

Additional reading on espnW from: Women Talk Sports and Blogs With Balls and The Wrap