ESPN Suggests Storytelling Is ...


ESPN LogoThe New York Times reported on Friday that ESPN plans to launch espnW.

That’s right.

An all-sports channel totally focused on serving one audience: women.

ESPN has cracked the code when it comes to extending its brad to sub-audiences. By 2020, I’m predicting the launch of espnBB, programming rich in shuffle board, darts and other sports easy on the joints for aging baby boomers.

But I digress.

Here’s the line that caught my attention from the mouth of Laura Gentile, vice president of espnW:

“Storytelling is important to women”

While she doesn’t come out and say woman like storytelling more than men, she goes on to imply this very point:

“Which is why more women than men watch the Olympics where the coverage tends to focus on the personal journeys of the athletes.”


Are you telling me the story of Eddie the Eagle and his ski jumping exploits only captured the imagination of female watchers?

I can’t imagine gender determining who watches Michael Phelps wolf down 10,000 plus calories as part of his training regimen.

Because storytelling is important to men too.

To bring attention to the cause, I hereby dub this movement MENS (men enjoy new stories).

As the first official act of MENS, I’m asking the men of America to boycott espnW.

Ms. Gentile will rue the day she played the gender card in storytelling.


  • mhueter

    Hi Lou, My name is Megan – I am founder of a site called – I’m also a big supporter of espnW.

    While I agree with your point that storytelling is important to men, too, I think you may have misunderstood Laura’s point. Your call to “boycott” espnW concerns me because we need support from people like you (i.e., men).

    From what I understand, Gentile’s team has done years of research on this, and they found that women consume sports information much differently than men, and one of the ways women prefer to communicate about sports is through deep storytelling (as opposed to constant statistical analysis, which trends higher for a male audience).

    While I completely agree with you that storytelling is critical to ALL communications and something that EVERYONE should be able to enjoy, I don’t think there’s a need to boycott anything here. Rather, we should support her team for taking this approach, and hope that this new form of digesting sport might trickle “up” and impact sports culture of all genders.

    I wrote a piece on espnW awhile back explaining some of the historical background on this new business and why it’s important for women – would love it if you could take a read, and I appreciate your feedback.

  • Lou Hoffman


    Appreciate you weighing in and your passion.

    This concept of a boycott was meant tongue-in-cheek.

    Consider it a clumsy attempt at parody (clearly, I shouldn’t quit my day job which doesn’t put a premium on humor).

    I’ll definitely check out your post.

  • mhueter

    Thanks, Lou! Sorry – yes, something I’m very passionate about. (and I promise you, I’m not alone).

  • Sarah Lafferty

    Lou, I understood the tongue-in-cheek nature of your post, but you allude to some serious points. All the elements of human drama exist in sport, so it’s the ideal context for a good story, regardless of audience demographics. I also passionately believe that women athletes deserve much better and higher-profile coverage. My instinct is that both of those can and probably should be addressed in the core ESPN product, rather than creating another brand that is aimed squarely at only 50% of the viewing public. I am loathe to admit this, but I don’t actually want to watch a sports channel that is exclusively about female athletes (I am interested equally in male and female athletes) and then torments my sanity during the breaks with ads for bloating remedies and feminine hygiene products. On the other hand, introducing more creativity, ’emotional intelligence’ and gender balance into the core ESPN product would, in my opinion, result in sports coverage that is more satisfying for all viewers.


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