SBJ/Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2013/Media

ESPN completes deal to lock up LLWS through ’22

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ESPN finalized a deal that ensures it will carry the Little League World Series through 2022.

As part of the deal with Little League International, which was first reported by SportsBusiness Journal in June, ESPN will pay around $60 million over the eight-year extension, around $7.5 million per year, sources said.

ESPN will pay about $60 million over eight years to broadcast Little League World Series games.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
That figure doubles the $30.5 million, eight-year deal that ESPN signed in 2007.

ESPN executives have long valued Little League programming, and the new deal continues a 50-year relationship. ESPN has carried Little League World Series games every year since 1987, and it occupies large programming blocks in August — a time when there are few live events on air. ESPN’s ABC broadcast network started carrying Little League World Series games — mainly the championship game — in 1963.

“For us, it’s perfect timing to have a two-week tournament pre-football,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and acquisitions, who said he coached Little League baseball teams for 10 years. “It delivers good ratings for us.”

Those ratings have remained consistent over the past several years, Williamson said. ESPN averaged 911,000 viewers for this year’s Little League World Series through Aug. 18, a viewership figure that’s up 12 percent over last year. Its 0.6 average rating is flat.

Under the new deal, ESPN will televise every game from the U.S. Regionals and World Series of each of Little League International’s divisions. Those include baseball and softball leagues (Intermediate, Junior League and Senior League) beyond the Little League World Series.

It also gives ESPN enhanced digital rights. This year, ESPN added 41 games to its broadband service ESPN3.

Little League has said that it did not enter into serious discussions with other networks.

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