Sunday, April 24, 2011

espnW: No Boys Allowed

So What is espnW?
In December of 2010, ESPN – the worldwide leader in sporting program -  introduced a new outlet to reach a targeted segmented: women.  The new website launched, espnW is a web site extension of .  The format of the website is a blog with hopes that the web site will be “Dedicated to women’s sports that specifically caters to the female fans of those sports”.  (Media Strut, 2010) The company is hoping to eventually spread to the format of television, depending on how popular the blog becomes with its targeted audience.  The target audience for this new experiment is women between the ages of 18 and 24.  The blog currently has the capabilities to stream videos online and the ability to share certain content via mobile phones. 

Laura Gentile, the vice president of espnW has high hopes for the new sub brand for the company.  She believes that if the web site is able to appeal to the target audience that these women will become more engulfed in sports for years to come.  “The idea is potentially cultivating this fan base of women’s sports fans, where 10 years from now, girls are growing up truly feeling like ESPN is made for them and ESPN is truly their brand,” Gentile said in an interview with the New York Times. (Kim, 2010). 

Who are watching sports?
In a recent New York Times article, it was revealed that women “make up 44 percent of football fans, 45 percent of baseball fans and 36 percent of professional men’s basketball fans.” (Kim, 2010). The New York Times received this information the different sporting leagues like the NFL, MLB, and NBA.  Later on in the article it was revealed that women make up nearly a quarter of ESPN’s total viewership. 

While there is strong evidence that women are watching sports, they are not necessarily watching women’s sports, or not on ESPN at least.  In 2009, just 1.4 percent of the airtime on ESPN was devoted to women’s sports.  That is down from a decade earlier, when 2.2 percent of the airtime was devoted to women’s sports.  In 2010, just 8 percent of ESPN’s on air programming was spent on women’s sports.  (Kim, 2010)

What are others saying about espnW?
Since it’s debut five months ago, espn W has received mixed reviews.  Surprisingly though, most of the reviews have been negative.   One of the criticisms of the web site is how the company is trying to reach out to women.  EspnW claims that it is trying to reach out to women who are interested in sports and yet the brand tweets about clothing. (Example: Fancy Lulu! See you soon. RT @WhitBenj: Only a few more hours until the @espnW retreat! What's a girl to wear? Dress up my @lululemon?)

Another main criticism is that if women are true sports fans, they should not have a different form of espn specifically catered to their needs.  As one blogger wrote "Women already HAVE an ESPN. It's called ESPN." In other words, women who like sports can just watch sports—they don't need a special channel to feed them coverage or make sports more palatable.” (Dicaro).

It remains to be seen if espn W will survive and if they will keep the same format of regenerating stories that are appealing to female fans.  
"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." -John Wooden
"I'm strong, I'm tough, I still wear my eyeliner." - Lisa Leslie

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