Athletes Unlimited and ESPN have reached a new multi-year rights agreement for pro softball and lacrosse. In all, more than 160 live games from the innovative player-centric women’s sports organization will air exclusively on ESPN platforms over the next two years.
At least 90 Athletes Unlimited events will be televised on linear networks over the two years of the deal, including 34 on ESPN or ESPN2 and 56 on ESPNU. The remaining games will be available to stream on ESPN+. In addition, ESPN will have international rights for these competitions to air on TSN in Canada, ESPN Latin America, and other platforms.
The third championship season of Athletes Unlimited Softball will run from July 29 to August 28, returning to the Chicago area at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Ill. In all, 60 players will be competing.
Athletes Unlimited Softball will expand this year to include a new two-week competition that will provide more playing opportunities and compensation to athletes, and more pro softball for fans. The new competition – AUX Softball – will take place June 13-25, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23. AUX Softball will feature 42 athletes playing 18 games in San Diego, with ESPN carrying all 18 games exclusively live on its networks (full broadcast schedule below).
In addition, on May 4 during the espnW Summit in New York, ESPN will carry live coverage of the Athletes Unlimited Softball Draft, as part of its live stream of the Summit events. The Draft will announce the initial group of college players who will be invited to join the championship season in Rosemont.
The second season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse will take place this summer, with the dates and location to be announced.
Jon Patricof, CEO and Co-Founder of Athletes Unlimited, said: “We are proud to collaborate with ESPN to solidify Athletes Unlimited Softball and Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse as two of the major pro sports leagues in the U.S. This deal establishes our presence as a major force in the pro sports landscape in the U.S., while serving as yet another reminder of ESPN’s commitment to women’s sports.”
Added Burke Magnus, ESPN President, Programming & Original Content: “ESPN is excited to expand its relationship with Athletes Unlimited and be part of their innovative approach to women’s professional sports. We are looking forward to showcasing these world class softball and lacrosse athletes as part of our longstanding commitment to women’s sports.”