February 21, 2024 

Athletes Unlimited pens multi-year extension with ESPN

Basketball added to mix

Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball (AU) signed a multi-year renewal of ESPN’s rights agreements. The deal, building on previous pacts between ESPN and AU, will include all four Athletes Unlimited Sports for the first time. Those sports include women’s pro softball, lacrosse, volleyball, and new to the deal, basketball.

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The partnership will come to life on February 29 by covering the tip off of the AU Pro Basketball season at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas. More than 70 AU Pro games are expected to air live on ESPN platforms with the remaining games will be available on ESPN+ this year. Out of that total, 24 AU Pro Basketball games will air across all ESPN networks while 6 games will be available on ESPN+.

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“ESPN has been absolutely crucial to the success of Athletes Unlimited, showcasing our amazing world-class athletes on the biggest global stage in sports. ESPN’s renewed and expanded commitment to Athletes Unlimited is both a validation of our business model as well as a testament to the growing popularity of these sports at the professional level,” said Jon Patricof, CEO and Co-Founder of Athletes Unlimited. “With all four of our pro women’s sports now featured on ESPN, we look forward to working with their incredible team to take Athletes Unlimited to even greater heights in the coming years to serve fans as well as brands looking to reach fans of women’s sports.” 

The extension reflects the growth of women’s sports audiences, specifically AU, in 2023. AU events saw an increase in viewership across the ESPN platforms. For AU Pro Lacrosse, a 25% year-over-year increase and for AU Pro Softball, there was a 38% year-over-year increase on ESPNU.

“We’re excited to showcase even more world-class female athletes through this new agreement with Athletes Unlimited as part of ESPN’s longstanding commitment to women’s sports,” said Dan Margulis, senior director of programming & acquisitions, ESPN. “This agreement allows us to continue to showcase the sports we feature on the collegiate level – highlighting these athletes throughout college and into their professional careers.  We look forward to presenting our debut season of AU Pro Basketball on ESPN platforms in addition to the popular league competitions that already exist in volleyball, softball and lacrosse.”

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The AU Pro Basketball league consists of a 40-slot roster consisting of Olympians, WNBA All-Stars, and WNBA champions. 18 of the players ended the 2023 WNBA season with a roster spot and 11 additional athletes have experience within the league. Fans will have the opportunity to watch WNBA players like Kierstan Bell and Sydney Colson of the Las Vegas Aces, Phoenix Mercury newcomer Natasha Cloud, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever.

ESPN’s full 2024 coverage of Athletes Unlimited Pro Sports includes:

Sport/DatesTotal Games
(All Networks)
ESPN Linear
AU Pro Basketball
AU Pro Softball
AUX (June)
AU Pro Lacrosse
AU Pro Softball
AU Pro Volleyball

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Written by Sydney Wingfield

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