WNBA, CBS Sports agree to mul­ti­year con­tract

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK — The WNBA is nearly dou­bling its na­tional TV ex­po­sure with a mul­ti­year deal with CBS Sports.

CBS Sports Net­work will broad­cast 40 WNBA games be­gin­ning next month when the sea­son opens. The Min­nesota Lynx vs. the Chicago Sky on May 25 will be the first game on the CBS Sports Net­work.

“Through our part­ner­ship with CBS Sports Net­work, the WNBA is join­ing an elite lineup of premium sports pro­gram­ming,” said NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver. “We thank CBS Sports for mak­ing such a mean­ing­ful com­mit­ment to women’s bas­ket­ball and for pro­vid­ing an­other plat­form to show­case the world-class ath­letes of the WNBA.”

The league, which will be­gin its 23rd sea­son on May 24, also has a deal with ESPN to show 16 reg­u­larsea­son tele­casts, in­clud­ing three on ABC. Last year, the WNBA had a strong reg­u­lar sea­son with com­bined av­er­age view­er­ship across ESPN2 and NBA TV up 31% over 2018. The CBS deal is the lat­est in an ac­tive off­sea­son for the WNBA with AT&T as a new mar­quee part­ner, new uni­forms by Nike and a re­brand­ing of the league with a new logo.

All-Star Sue Bird and the de­fend­ing WNBA cham­pion Seat­tle Storm will make six ap­pear­ances on CBS Sports Net­work this sea­son. That in­cludes a WNBA Fi­nals re­match against for­mer league MVP Elena Delle Donne and the Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics on June 14.

The TV chan­nel will use lo­cal broad­cast feeds for now, sim­i­lar to what NBA TV does for WNBA games. The up­com­ing NBA TV sched­ule of WNBA games has not been fi­nal­ized yet, but nearly 50 games are ex­pected to be broad­cast — the same as last year.

“We are truly ex­cited to part­ner with the WNBA, bring­ing the coun­try’s premier women’s sports league to CBS Sports Net­work. This part­ner­ship is one of the big­gest and most im­pact­ful women’s sports pro­gram­ming ar­range­ments ever at CBS Sports, of­fer­ing na­tional ex­po­sure of 40 games per year,” said CBS Sports chair­man Sean McManus. “This agree­ment pro­vides great live con­tent through­out the sum­mer in prime time and on week­ends, and aligns two great brands in the WNBA and CBS Sports. We look for­ward to work­ing with the WNBA for many years to come.”

CBS ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pro­gram­ming Dan Wein­berg said the WNBA was ex­actly what CBS was look­ing for to bol­ster its sched­ule.

“We are look­ing to part­ner with es­tab­lished brands that are grow­ing with ded­i­cated fan bases,” he said in a phone in­ter­view. “The WNBA checks every one of those boxes. (Play­ing in the) spring-sum­mer lends it­self to our pro­gram­ming sched­ule. We are clearly and ob­vi­ously talk­ing about the best bas­ket­ball play­ers in the world at the high­est level. As­so­ci­at­ing our­selves with WNBA, it’s a great pow­er­ful es­tab­lished brand with pop­u­lar­ity across the coun­try.”

The sides are still dis­cussing ex­pand­ing the cov­er­age to in­clude fea­tures and other WNBA pro­gram­ming.

“It’s go­ing to be be­yond high­lights,” said David De­nen­berg, who is the Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, Global Me­dia Dis­tri­bu­tion and Busi­ness Af­fairs for NBA En­ter­tain­ment. “Whether it’s fea­tures we de­velop or CBS de­vel­ops, we want to do more.”

It’s un­clear how the WNBA will de­cide which games will air on ESPN or CBS Sports Net­work go­ing for­ward af­ter this year. The league didn’t seem too con­cerned.

“Suf­fice it to say we have enough games we think we’ll put to­gether a ro­bust sched­ule for ev­ery­one,” De­nen­berg said. “We’ll an­nounce the CBS sched­ule, ESPN sched­ule. I think we’re go­ing to well serve all our part­ners.”

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