WNBA Announces New TV Deal With ESPN/ABC

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

WASHINGTON – The WNBA announced a new television contract with ESPN/ABC on Sunday in a landmark deal that will give the league rights fees for the first time.

The eight-year deal, which will also include rights for digital media, will begin in 2009 and go through the league’s 20th season in 2016. The current six-year contract expires at the end of next season.

“It’s a tremendous vote of confidence,” WNBA president Donna Orender said before the league’s All-Star game. “It’s a tremendous vote of affirmation and validation of 11 years of hard work of the athletes of the WNBA, the consistent growth of talent that we have and the growth in our fan base.”

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Financial details were not disclosed.

The digital rights include the ability for the networks to broadcast live games and other content on digital media, including the Web and mobile TV.

“Our goal is to serve a diverse group of fans and fans of women’s sports,” said ESPN executive vice president for content John Skipper said. “We’ve had very good success with the women’s college basketball tournament, with women’s college softball, women’s soccer. This is an important part of that commitment.”

The NBA announced an eight-year deal with ESPN/ABC and TNT that will pay it approximately $930 million annually. Orender and Skipper said the WNBA’s deal was independent from that.

“This is a wide-ranging grant of rights for all of our services and platforms,” Skipper said. “We are paying a rights fee, we are producing the games, and we’re selling the inventory because we believe in the future of this league.

“We wouldn’t be in this for nine more years if we weren’t confident of the growth potential of this sport.”

A service of the Associated Press(AP)