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#pounditFriday, February 26, 2021

ESPNW Brand Coming with Mixed Reviews from Women

Some of the most influential women in sports are getting together this weekend for an espnW retreat to discuss a new brand being developed by ESPN. As USA Today explained, the network is planning to have espnW as “a new sub-brand that will soon begin as a blog and could end up being its own TV channel.” Clearly they’re looking to target a female audience and give them something they’ll feel is theirs.

So how do women feel about this? Well, the reaction is mixed.

Cubbie Julie writing at Chicago Now feels insulted by the idea. She feels that female sports fans can watch ESPN if they want sports. She also wants ESPN to appeal more to women by integrating females into the television and web product rather than relegating them to a sub-channel. Aspiring sports reporter Sarah Tyson had a similar reaction, “Believe it or not ESPN, there are some women who like watching sports without chatting about pedicures during timeouts.” Monica Idziak, a die-hard Bills fan echoed the sentiment “Why not just tweak existing ESPN to make it more enjoyable for EVERYONE?”

Though I understand their collective reaction, it’s hard to make judgments without knowing exactly what espnW’s plans are. Alana Nguyen, the Director of Programming for the sports blog network Yardbarker, is in the same camp. She thinks “As a business decision, if they feel they can segment the market and create a solid female audience that will appeal to advertisers, that seems like a good idea.” But Nguyen has questions, “What I don’t really know about is, how they intend to execute that, and whether it will resonate with female viewers,” adding “there are certainly many female sports fans who like ESPN as it is.”

On the other hand, some of the people involved in the project seemed to be stoked about the plans.

Notre Dame basketball player Skylar Diggins, who’s in San Diego for the retreat said on twitter “this is a women’s movement….the message is so powerful. I’m honored to be a part of this…..all of us together move mountains.”

Her words make you think something huge is in the works.

Ultimately, anytime something is divided by gender lines, there’s bound to be controversial reaction. Personally, I need more information and want to see what the product looks like before making decisions. In general, I feel like female sports fans know where to go when they want sports. The larger issue is that females as a whole aren’t as interested in sports as males (though there are plenty of exceptions). I’m just not sure it’s possible to create many more female sports fans than what already exists and I think that may be the true issue.

UPDATE: From Kerri Potts at ESPN, “espnW is not a channel or a network and there are no plans for that at present. It will be a digital brand (mobile, .com and social) for former high school and college athletes and sports fans with content geared toward them and their interests.”

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