ESPN, which already airs lots of of faculty softball and ladies’s lacrosse video games every spring, is ready to turn into a vacation spot for the professional variations of these sports activities as effectively.
The Disney-owned sports activities model set a two-year settlement with rising professional circuit Athletes United that may see greater than 160 video games air and stream on numerous platforms. Of the total roster of video games, 34 of them shall be broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2 and 56 shall be on ESPNU. Others will stream on ESPN+, as will a four-part unscripted collection, Going Pro: Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse.
Athletes Unlimited, which began with a deal with softball in 2020, has since branched out to lacrosse, volleyball and basketball, deploying a novel, player-centric format. Instead of the standard deal with city-based groups drafting gamers, touring to video games and figuring out a last winner by way of playoff rounds, Athletes Unlimited focuses on particular person athletes and a extra significant common season. Weekly drafts continually reshuffle groups. Players compete for particular person factors, with one being topped particular person champion on the finish of the five-week season. The technique goals to capitalize on the brand new nature of sports activities fandom, which is beginning to see particular person gamers turn into extra of a draw than particular groups or cities, at the least in some sports activities.
ESPN may even have worldwide rights for video games, throughout TSN in Canada, ESPN Latin America, and different platforms.
Athletes Unlimited Softball, which launched in 2020, could have its third version in Chicago from July 29 to August 28, when 60 gamers will sq. off on the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, IL. The second season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse will happen this summer time, with the dates and site to be introduced.
“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.,” mentioned Jon Patricof, CEO and co-founder of Athletes Unlimited, in a press launch. “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.”
Before co-founding the brand new professional league, Patricof was president of New York City FC, the professional soccer crew part-owned by the New York Yankees. He additionally was COO of Tribeca Enterprises, mum or dad of the Tribeca Festival and different ventures.
Burke Magnus, president of programming and authentic content material, for ESPN, praised Athletes Unlimited’s “innovative approach” to ladies’s professional sports activities. “We are looking forward to showcasing these world class softball and lacrosse athletes as part of our longstanding commitment to women’s sports.”
As of now, 31 gamers from 2021 have re-signed with the league for the 2022 Athletes Unlimited Softball season, together with 12 Olympians from 4 nations.