ESPN has soft-launched ESPNW, a spin-off brand targeting women.
The site, which went live on Monday, features coverage of women’s sports that sometimes get lost on ESPN.com and the network itself: women’s college basketball, college soccer and U.S. women’s soccer team.
Here’s the ESPNW mission, as presented on the site:
espnW is a destination for women who are passionate sports fans and athletes. We hope you find it surprising, informative and inspiring, because we created it just for you. We welcome your thoughts.
We are excited to bring together some of the best and brightest writers in the business, all of whom are true sports fans at heart. Through espnW, we'll bring you commentary and analysis on the sports stories that matter to you. We'll also shine a brighter spotlight on the accomplishments of women athletes -- elite and everyday.
For all of you who love sports we hope you find this product (and our products still to come) surprising, informative and inspiring. We want to talk with women who are both active and strong athletes and passionate and engaged sports fans. You'll find meaningful coverage of the games, teams and players you care about most right here.
The concept, though, isn’t without controversy. When ESPN first announced ESPNW, some women criticized the network for effectively secluding women’s sports in -- as one blogger called it -- a “pink ghetto.”
Oddly enough, ESPNW is being pretty inclusive of men’s sports, at least to this point. Three of the four stories currently featured on ESPNW.com’s homepage are male-focused: a recap of the New England Patriots' shellacking of the New York Jets on “Monday Night Football,” a post on the Jimmy V. Classic men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden and another on the Jets-Pats. (The lone women sports-specific story is about Baylor and Stanford women’s basketball.)
The idea, according to executives behind the launch, is to create a brand for women that could – could -- eventually lead to its own spin-off channel, alongside successful spin-offs like ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN News.
Though numbers indicate that could be far off. Women account for less than 25 percent of ESPN’s overall viewership. And just two of the network’s shows draw a majority-female audience -- and one doesn’t even technically air on the cable channel: “The National Spelling Bee” skews 63 percent female (it airs on ABC); and ESPN’s cheerleading coverage (52 percent).