ESPN, WNBA Extend Deal through 2016; expand digital offerings

ESPN and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) have agreed to an eight-year rights extension through the 2016 season for ABC and ESPN2, and a comprehensive digital rights package. It was announced today by John Skipper, ESPN Executive Vice President, Content and Donna Orender, WNBA President. The new pact will also feature television rights for ESPN International.

ESPN retains rights to WNBA content for at least 14 ESPN platforms, including: ABC, ABC HD, ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN2, ESPN2 HD, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN.com, ESPN360.com, ESPN Mobile Publishing, ESPN Mobile TV, and ESPN podcasts. The deal will also cover all new platforms ESPN creates or develops relationships with through the end of the agreement in 2016.

The agreement extends the WNBA’s relationship with ESPN, which began with the league’s inaugural season in 1997, to 20 seasons.

Skipper said: “ESPN is committed to being the leader in women’s sports coverage and is delighted to partner with the WNBA as we continue to help grow women’s basketball.”

Orender added: “We are very pleased with ESPN’s long-term commitment to the WNBA as well as its commitment to women’s sports. As we are seeing increases in our attendance and sponsorship business this season, this deal is yet another tremendous affirmation of the popularity and caliber of our game, our programming and our players.”

The new contract includes a minimum of 18 regular-season games to be telecast on ESPN2 (approximately one per week) and two games on ABC. The postseason on ESPN2 will include a minimum of 11 games, including the entire best-of-five WNBA Finals. All ABC and ESPN2 telecasts will continue to have time-period exclusivity. In addition, the deal includes coverage of the first round of the WNBA Draft on ESPN2 and rights to coverage on ESPN Deportes, including: live simulcast rights for all ESPN2 regular-season and post-season games, as well as all studio and specials programming; SAP rights for all ABC games; and enhanced digital media rights for ESPNDeportes.com.

ESPN’s enhanced digital rights now include content across all media, including future platforms; ability to include ESPN and ABC games and studio programming in ESPN offerings, on a live, delayed and on-demand basis and in an interactive format; use of WNBA-licensed content in multi-sport programming; ability to simulcast full WNBA games live on ESPN360.com and ESPN Mobile TV; and use of WNBA-licensed content in user-personalized features on ESPN platforms.

The new contract provides extensive rights for ESPN International for game and studio telecasts to Latin America, the Middle East, Israel, Africa, Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands), cruise ships and studio programming to Europe.