It was only a matter of time, and money, before cable took the plunge into more women-focused programming. Now, ESPN is making strides with an upcoming espnW.
At noon, on Oct 1st, ESPN had a first for women: Two women anchors signed off and passed the mike to two more women anchors. As small as that may seem, much adoo was made.
Now, ESPN is praving the path to up their female viewership by soft-launching espnW as a “sub-brand”–first as blog, then with dedicated programming and, if the money flows in advertising, ts own channel, alongside ESPN2, U, Classic and News.
“Women see us as an admirable brand that has authority,” ESPN vice president Laura Gentile told USA Today. “But they see us as their father’s brand, or husband’s brand, or boyfriend’s brand. They recognize it’s not theirs.”
Like anything else, TV channels either grow an audience or stagnate and die. And where else is there for ESPN to go? Someone has figured out that there are more people on the planet than males, and those people have many dollars to spend, not to mention, play and enjoy sports.
According to TheWrap, women account for less than 25% of ESPN‘s overall viewership. Only two of the network’s shows draw a majority-female audience, the spelling be on ABC, and cheerleading coverage on ESPN.
A representative for ESPN stressed that “espnW will launch as a digital brand — mobile, online and social media.” And so they have, with a Twitter account already up and running, espnW.
“It’s unfortunate that when predominantly male television channels or websites do something like this, it’s for the purpose of making money, or it’s advertising-driven,” Jessica Wakeman, a staff writer for women’s pop culture blog The Frisky, told TheWrap. “If they were truly inclusive of women, they would try to integrate women into their programming, rather than secluding them off in a ‘pink ghetto.’”
Laura Gentile, ESPN Vice President, was overseeing a collaboration this past week to toss around ideas for espnW. She hosted athletes such as Shannon Miller, Jennie Finch, Laila Ali, Julie Foudy and Marion Jones, as well as lots of sports marketers at a Southern California resort.
Gentile says she wants to find a way to bring sports to women in a more holistic approach. Women aren’t as passive at their sports watching as men, according to Gentile, but I’m not sure I really know what that means. Gentile wants espnW to encompass all things women–sports, working out, being healthy, connecting with other women, and pedicures.
There’ve been both good and bad reactions to this news. Some, very bad and rude comments on some websites, which is unfortunate because many see this as only the beginning of something very big and very past due. Female-focused programming is here already with cable channels such as WE. Now, sports programming is catching up to an emerging trend.