The Women's National Basketball Association has signed a six-year rights
agreement with ESPN and ABC Sports, which will succeed NBC as the league's
The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, tips off with the distaff pro
hoops league's 2003 season next spring, when ESPN2 will expand its extant
coverage to include a half-hour pregame show.
The network -- now in some 84 million homes -- will carry regular-season and
playoff games, as well as the circuit's All-Star Game and draft.
For its part, ABC will carry five to 10 regular-season and playoff contests,
according to an ESPN spokesman.
The contract marks an extension for ESPN, which has presented the WNBA since
its inception in 1997. During the first four years, ESPN and ESPN2 aired 12 to
17 contests -- a total that was expanded to about 30 the last two years, when
the networks picked up Lifetime Television's package of games.
The ESPN spokesman said that while a final lineup has yet to be determined,
ESPN2 and ABC together will air a schedule that will be at the 'high end of that
range' next year.
He noted that Oxygen has de facto picked up the games that previously aired
Oxygen announced a two-year deal last week covering a minimum of 11 games
this year and weekly contests and playoff action in 2003.
For its part, NBC will run 10 WNBA regular-season matchups and as many as
five playoff tilts during its final year with the league.