Wednesday

Only Two Things - Divergent Opinions on espnW

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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

17 comments:

  1. It sounds like a great idea to me and one whose time has come. As you say there's a vicious circle that keeps women's sport in a marginal position and it's going to require some risk-taking and a lot of commitment on the part of a big network like ESPN to break that circle.

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  2. Great reporting Patricia and thanks for bringing this to our attention. Yes, it certainly is about time for a channel like this but let's keep our eye on the ball:
    1. what content will make it's way to this outlet so it's not just "spelling bee's"
    2. let's see if this channel will be supported by women (and certainly others) and prove to the advertisers and sponsors that this will be money well spent! Sweet Spot could not be more excited about the concept and commitment by ESPN to make this a reality...

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  3. Brian poses the big question. Will women support espnW? That'll be crucial and it's not a given.

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  4. .

    female focused sports news brand content would be uninteresting because if the audience was aimed at women, well, the one's i know would rather SHOP than watch TV

    a MAJOR source of friction for women for as long as i can remember is hearing them lament that their men paid more attention to TV sports than them

    men watch TV

    women SHOP

    it's in the human DNA


    anyway be well

    frankD
    ft lauderdale so fla

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  6. .

    what i am saying is women's sports are as compelling and exciting and enjoyable to spectate as men's competitions - BUT don't expect women to watch women (except maybe to see what they're wearing) compete

    no man who has ever seen it can forget women's roller derby - but try to find a woman who has ever watched it (or will admit to it)

    making a profit on TV advertising is really what dictates the content of any broadcast (and since much of the pornography on TV is free) the women have lost an edge over men on that basis

    anyway be well

    frankD
    ft lauderdale FLA

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  7. Hmmm! I'm interested as to the actual motivation for this channel. Is it truly to promote women's sport or is it to create a tighter demographic on which to flog more advertising?
    Having endured your US coverage of PGA Golf I can only hope it's better fare.

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  8. Frank definitely has a point about women. I'm afraid we've been culturally conditioned to prefer shopping, decorating and watching the Kardashians. But that's changing and I'm hoping the forward-thinking plans of Disney/ESPN produce the foundation for a network that can fit the needs of the actual women sports fans of the future.

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  9. It'll be a tricky proposition that's for sure especially if they hope to engage peripheral women fans without alienating the avid ones. But I'd definitely think ESPN would have the better chances of making it work than any other network or organization.

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  10. ESPN treats poker as sport, so tell me again what's wrong with spelling bees?

    Women of my generation generally didn't participate in team sports (unless you count field hockey in PE class or synchronized swimming). Today most young women have participated at some level while growing up. Society is evolving and maybe a channel with the mission of promoting women in sport would be another step in that evolution.

    My biggest concern would be that it would only be available in standard definition and have really bad announcers.

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  11. It's an interesting concept. Ultimately it all comes down to execution.

    I share Diane's concerns about the quality of the broadcasting which could turn people off.

    I also don't want to see it as a replacement for broadcasting women's sports on mainstream TV, but rather supplement it and expand coverage. That would be a good thing.

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  12. .

    i could watch this all day..............Nova Southeastern University Women's Golf Team on YouTube

    just sayin

    frankD
    ftlauderdale so fla

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  13. .


    BTW the course the NSU womens team YouTube video above are on is Grande Oaks

    yup the old Rolling Hills in Davie FLA, the course used in filming the original CaddyShack movie

    fun in the sun

    frankD
    ftlauderdaleFLA

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  14. I like the idea of Spelling Bees and Poker.

    Imagine combining both:

    Tim please spell "Exchequer"

    Tim (behind sunglasses jingling chips), "I'm going all in"

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  15. Thanks for the tip Frank I thought I recognized the course. Had to watch it a couple of times though. ;)

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  16. ESPNW should be sponsored by Lululemon. Every chick I know who works out can't get enough of that store!

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  17. .

    langston,

    to be honest, the first eight or so times i watched the video i didn't even notice the golf course at all L O L

    actually mr wayne huizinga of miami dolphins (team and 1/2 the stadium), panthers (team and the entire arean) and marlins (same as dolphins) is the owner of that golf course (grande oaks formerly Rolling Hills) as well as being a major benefactor of NSU (Huizinga School of (waht else ?) Business )- thus Grande Oaks is the "home" course of the NSU golf teams (mens and womens)

    i get out there on occasion and watch these young women, and, i tell you, there is nothing else
    like it

    since i live closeby i also see these same kids around town and thereby know them casually - but no, i could never have a girlfriend who plays golf at that level

    anyway be well

    frankD
    ftliquordale F L A U S A

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