After years of planning and collaboration, there are countless gratifying aspects to a network launch. One that gives us particular pride about the week-old ACC Network is the plethora of women’s sports events that are a critical part of the network’s extensive live programming schedule. It begins with a strong fall lineup of 62 women’s events, representing a 92% increase in linear coverage and the most-ever national exposure for ACC women’s fall sports. That’s just one season.
The advent of the ACC Network marks the latest step in our growing, unmatched commitment to showcase a wide variety of live women’s sports action across ESPN’s entities.
Just last month, we announced a new agreement with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) to televise 14 matches, culminating with the NWSL Championship October 27 on ESPN2. That comes on the heels of our new deal with the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL), which resulted in regular-season games and playoff action for the first time ever on ESPN’s networks.
Women’s college softball is also a fast-growing category that is clearly resonating with sports fans. We have increased our schedule, culminating with complete-game coverage of the NCAA Tournament including the Women’s College World Series, a signature event for ESPN. Ratings continue to surge.
Since the WNBA’s inception in 1997, we have been proud partners and our increased 18-game, regular-season schedule leads into our coverage of the post-season with up to 19 additional telecasts, including the WNBA Finals.
Tune into ESPN’s outlets this week and you are sure to catch some of the world’s best women’s tennis stars shine during our exclusive “first ball to last ball” US Open coverage, one of three tennis majors we present (Wimbledon, Australian Open). With the best opening night ratings in over a decade, we are off to another strong start in Flushing Meadows.
NCAA Women’s Championships have become staples on ESPN. We annually televise every game from the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. ESPN’s year-round schedule is also highlighted by NCAA Women’s Championships in soccer, fencing, bowling, volleyball, swimming and diving, gymnastics, lacrosse, beach volleyball, track and field (indoor and outdoor) and the aforementioned softball. In most cases, the NCAA Championship event is preceded by a regular-season schedule on ESPN’s networks.
In 1995, we launched the X Games franchise featuring the world’s best female and male action sports athletes competing on a global stage. We’ve expanded beyond our tent pole winter and summer events to include internationally staged competitions, such as this weekend’s action in Oslo, Norway.
The world’s best is also an appropriate term for the female athletes that regularly appear across ESPN’s platforms as part of our recent, unprecedented agreement with UFC, the leading mixed martial arts organization.
Even before ACC Network, the scope of our coverage was ever expanding through the addition of SEC Network, Longhorn Network, ESPN3, ESPNU and the most-recently launched ESPN+. They all boast a strong mix of women’s sports programming.
Looking beyond our events, the establishment of espnW in 2010 served to provide compelling and wide-ranging content 12 months a year, while engaging fans through innovative collaborations such as the Julie Foudy Leadership Academy, the Global Sports Mentoring Program, the annual Women + Sports Summit and this year’s Summit NYC.
As we reflect on our latest network launch and quickly approach another ESPN milestone – our 40th anniversary on Sept. 7 – our deep commitment to women’s sports event programming remains an essential component of our company’s foundation and success.