ESPN Targeting Female Demographic With espnW

By Marcus Vanderberg 

ESPN plans on targeting the female demographic with a new-sub brand called espnW.

“It really is a specific and dedicated platform to women in the form of a website,” said Laura Gentile, vice president of espnW, who spoke to SportsNewser on Friday. “It will start off as a blog this fall and evolve into a full-fledged website next spring with a mobile site and a pretty large presence on Twitter and Facebook. It’s really digital, mobile and social at its core right out of the gate.”

espnW has been in the works for over two years now as ESPN has noticed that women athletes and fans are underserved. espnW will look to capitalize on that huge void.

“The inspiration was just thinking through a real business opportunity where there’s a market that’s underserved,” Gentile said. “There’s no sports media platform that’s truly dedicated to women athletes and fans. The inspiration was to really serve those fans in a dedicated way.”

Since ESPN is a sports cable television giant, does the launch of the espnW sub brand mean another network is on the way?

“Not at the moment. That’s not at the heart of our strategy,” Gentile said. “The first thing we really want to do is create this specific environment that’s built for women and by women. There’s certainly a potential to do espnW branded programming and branded films that would run on our networks.”

Currently, women account for 24 percent of ESPN’s viewership. Only the National Spelling Bee on ABC (63 percent) and ESPN2’s cheerleading (52 percent) draw a majority female audience.

As part of the espnW kick-off, Gentile is running a women’s retreat hosted by ESPN this weekend in La Jolla, Calif. In attendance are such notable athletes such as Laila Ali, Jennie Finch, Yolanda Griffith and Billie Jean King along with influential business executives and coaches.

“On some level, it’s really to continue all the learning and research we have done to date on espnW,” Gentile said on the retreat, which is hosted at The Lodge At Torrey Pines. “We have done a lot of formal research and focus groups … a lot of quantitative work. This is kind of another form of that in terms of creating an intimate session with really influential women and hearing what they have to say.”