ESPNW and Women’s Tennis in General

So ESPN has decided that they will be starting a new version of ESPN. This version will be dedicated to women’s sports and all of a sudden advocates of equality etc are up in arms and have taken over twitter.

Jessica Wakeman, of women’s pop culture blog The Frisky, is quoted as saying that “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.’”

Now I must be missing the point or something but what is wrong about women having their own. Is that not a sign of our independence and a step forward in the great race for equality. I grew up in a culture and environment where the man was king and there was no doubt about who was the head of the household. Even though things have changed, and the reality is that women have most of the responsibility in relation to being head of households etc men are still considered king of the hill.

For years I have been advocating that the women of the WTA and indeed the WTA itself should seriously think about establishing its own network to broadcast women’s tennis. Whenever a Masters Series event is being aired, you get coverage on Tennis Channel and ESPNI from the first ball is played until the finals. In some cases you even get doubles coverage. In terms of coverage for the women, you will be lucky if you get coverage from the quarter finals onwards.

In terms of cost cutting, many of the premier events for the women are now being combined with the men’s events. In these situations women’s tennis gets short shrift. A case in point is this year at Indian Wells and Miami. Both events are premier/mandatories for the women and MS 1000 for the men. I saw every ball that was struck in the men’s events but marquee names such as Henin, Sharapova and Clijsters who played these events, especially Indian Wells, their matches were never aired.

It gets even worse. During this year’s US Open Series, we saw matches from early on in Washington and lesser events, yet established big draw events featuring the big marquee names in women’s tennis, we only saw matches from the quarters on. This was not only for tv but for live streaming as well. It took bloggers on the ground to provide us with updates via twitter and their blogs as to what was happening on the ground.

If ESPN, the world leader in sports marketing can establish a channel dedicated to women’s tennis, and it proves profitable, as I think it will, then perhaps they will then get the message that women’s sports is a very valuable commodity.

Women cannot be considered equal until and unless they can show that they can perform with men on an equal footing. That means that while it is all well and good for people to shout equality from the rooftops if a channel that is dedicated to women’s sports fail, then that would give credence that we are not all equal.

The proof of any pudding is in the eating. I saw bring on the women’s sports channel. Feature every kind of women’s sports. Offer it at a reasonable price to women and let us see where advertisers put their money.

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