espnW–What Where Are You Thinking????
By Ivette Ricco
Picture this….a bunch of guys smoking cigars, sipping 100 year old scotch served to them by a bevy of voluptuous women, suddenly realize that women actually love sports. Not just women’s sports (whatever that means) but the big three, NFL, MLB and NBA with the NHL climbing fast.
Yes it seems as if the sports industry has taken notice,they now know that women have disposable income, are highly educated and love their sports. This is something I have decrying since Femmefan.com was launched on a wing and a prayer in March of 2000. But do these marketing and industry moguls really understand this market? I don’t think so. It’s not a market that is easily targeted and identified.
Unlike male fans their female counterparts are not so easily seduced by childish beer commercials or sexy women. Although Femmefan.com has worshipped at the altar of beautiful male bodies in our Locker Room Lookers pages. Yeah baby!
And although Sports Illustrated tried to target this market with Sports Illustrated for Women (a big flop) to date no true media effort has been made to reach out to this large fan base. ESPN though, is giving it a whirl. They recently launched espnW. A sports blog for female fans. Hey, isn’t that what Femmefan started ten years ago? But of course we are a little bitty cog in a huge media wheel.
Makes one wonder, why the sudden interest? The answer is simply, money, baby, money.
But the reviews thus far for this new ESPN enterprise have not been good.
Women who love sports, as I do, simply follow their sports of choice through the media outlets currently available. If ESPN is looking for a niche then they need look no further than, voila, ESPN!
What separates a female sports fan from a male sports fan? That seems to be the million dollar question.
I have always believed that the difference is in the back story, telling a story about the person not about the stats. If I want stats and updates I can get that from the mulititude of media resources, anyone can get almost anything sports-related from the world wide web.
What we at Femmefan understand that difference and it is why we have featured humanity and humor above stats.
Here is how ESPN’s Vice President, Laura Gentile responds to questions about this new venture.
ESPN’s own research finds “women see us as an admirable brand that has authority. But they see us as their father’s brand, or husband’s brand, or boyfriend’s brand. They recognize it’s not theirs”
Really? When did that happen? Seems to me that has been the case for generations.
Fact: Men account for 76% of ESPN’s overall viewership.
fact: Two types of programming ESPN produces draws majority-female audiences: The National Spelling Bee on ABC (63% female) and cheerleading shows on ESPN2 (52%) — with ESPN2′s Wimbledon coverage in third place with 48%.
Are you kidding me? Who took that survey? Who were the women they polled?
The network plans to make espnW a new sub-brand that will soon begin as a blog and could end up being its own TV channel. Says Gentile: “I think espnW-branded programming is in the cards, but I can’t say whether we’ll make it into a network.”
ESPN’s research says Gentile, suggests women don’t see following sports as a “passive activity” as much as men do, so espnW “should take a more active approach, showing sports but also talking about working out and being healthy and connecting to other women.”
I beg to differ!
Gentile says “the retreat, where we talk about women finding self-esteem in sports and about getting a pedicure, is a reflection of what we want to do with the espnW brand — find a more holistic way of looking at sports.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels!
Here is just one dissenting view:
Oh, where to begin?
To the surprise of many of my male friends, I HATE the idea of an ESPN channel aimed specifically at women. And I’m not alone. Nearly every female blogger and sports fan on my twitter feed was annoyed by the announcement of espnW. And not only because we appear to be getting closer and closer to making ESPN8, The Ocho, a reality.
Women already HAVE an ESPN. It’s called ESPN.
The idea that women need a “girlier” version of sports programming insulting. This is the same idea that has caused sports marketing geniuses to try to sell baseball to women, who already comprise more than 40% of the fan base, by creating sparkly pink hats and bedazzled t-shirts.
The idea that sports need to somehow be feminized to attract women is completely off-base. Like the Jennie Finches, Julie Foudys, and Lindsay Vonns of the world, women today are the daughters of Title IX. We grew up playing sports, just like the guys, and we still love sports, just like the guys. We don’t need pink jerseys to buy sports merchandise and we don’t need espnW to cajole us into watching sports programming.
The idea that we want our own ESPN for sunrise yoga and “learning how to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle” is, in a word, stupid. And by the way, I already get Lifetime.
In addition to insulting 50% of the American population with this stupid idea, espnW gives ESPN the perfect excuse to relegate women’s sports to a sub-channel. It’s not like there was a lot of women’s sports being shown on ESPN in the first place, but is there any doubt ESPN would put it anywhere OTHER than espnW if it has the option?
If ESPN really wants to attract more women stop hiring bimbos just because they look good and get some smart, sports-savvy women on your network. Or, in the alternative, hire some beefcake guys for us to look at, because John Kruk and Chris Berman aren’t really doing it for me. Get women in the broadcast booth as well as in the studio. Hire more women to write for espn.com. Stop relegating women to the sidelines and personal interest stories. It would probably also help if your employees stopped sexually harassing women at the current rate.
In short, treat women as equals, and more women will start watching your network.
The bottom line is that women who want a sportier version of HGTV will probably love espnW, and those of us who want real sports programming will keep watching ESPN (or, more accurately, MLBN and NFLN).
At the very least, show women that you respect them as sports fans by not calling the new channel “espnW,” thereby implying that the anticipated programming, which at this point appears to be less-than-interesting, is somehow sanctioned by women. Call your new channel something else, and you can show all the spelling bees and cheerleading competitions you want.
Might I suggest espnL, for” lame?”
I’m with you sister!