For the first time ever, a regular-season women’s college basketball game will be broadcast on ABC this weekend —The Never Forget Classic featuring UCLA vs. No. 3 UConn at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 11. Then, Sunday’s Jimmy V Women’s Classic doubleheader on ESPN showcases No. 14 Kentucky at No. 7 Louisville (1 p.m.) and No. 8 Maryland at No. 1 South Carolina (3 p.m.). Ahead of such a blockbuster weekend for the sport, Alystia Moore, manager of programming for men’s and women’s basketball, discusses her role and ESPN’s efforts to create exciting, high-profile women’s matchups at a time when interest in the sport is at an all-time high.
As manager of programming for women’s basketball, what does your job entail?
I am responsible for planning our overall women’s basketball schedule. We work closely with our talent and internal departments to identify who we think will be the best teams for the upcoming year. Then we work with the teams and conferences to schedule games on our networks, particularly working to place the best projected matchups in primetime windows when possible. I also help manage the relationship with the NCAA, as well as set the schedule for the Women’s Basketball Championship. Throughout the season, I’m working with our internal and external stakeholders to ensure that we are highlighting and promoting women’s basketball as much as possible.
You are taking even more of a leadership role in the sport this year with the retirement of Carol Stiff. What are your biggest areas of focus?
My biggest area of focus is the internal and external promotion of women’s basketball (specifically) and women’s sports (generally). Carol was an incredible champion for women and women’s sports throughout her tenure at ESPN. If I can replicate a fraction of that in my career, I will consider that a success.
Looking at ESPN’s women’s schedule, what are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about the number of opportunities that we have to showcase women’s basketball on ESPN this season. The audience for women’s basketball is continuing to grow and being able to showcase the sport on our flagship network 20 times during the regular season is incredible. Additionally, I’m excited about having a regular-season game on ABC for the first time. The way the company continues to rally behind women’s basketball is truly encouraging.
With a renewed focus on gender equity following last year’s NCAA Women’s Tournament, how is ESPN working to grow the game?
ESPN has always been at the forefront of growing women’s basketball. Everything from the number of women’s basketball games that we schedule every year to the amazing storytelling and production. Last year, we unveiled a full national schedule where every game was televised on a linear network instead of utilizing regionalization. This format saw increased consumption as well as the most-viewed Championship game since 2014.
We have always been a leader in women’s basketball, but we know that we can continue to do more. As mentioned, we’ve increased our ESPN appearances to 20 (from 12 in 2020-21 and 11 in 2019-20) and added an ABC appearance for the first time ever. We are working to promote the NCAA Championship in both men’s and women’s basketball games, instead of just women’s games. Additionally, this is the first year that March Madness branding can be applied to women’s basketball, so we are working closely with the NCAA to ensure clear, yet equitable messaging.
What’s your favorite women’s college basketball moment?
My favorite moment was definitely in 2018 watching (Notre Dame’s) Arike Ogunbowale hit back-to-back game-winning shots in the Final Four and National Championship games. That was my first season on college basketball as part of the ESPN programming team and also my first time attending a Women’s Final Four in person. An amazing experience!