<
>

Athletes Unlimited softball league scores TV deal with ESPN, CBS Sports

Athletes Unlimited, a new professional softball league scheduled to begin in August, reached an agreement with CBS Sports and ESPN to broadcast all 30 games of the inaugural season.

The league and its broadcast partners announced the agreement Tuesday.

"These deals will allow our games to reach as wide of an audience as possible of both existing fans of softball as well as general sports fans," Athletes Unlimited CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof said in a statement. "These partnerships will provide sports fans with the opportunity to watch every second of competition featuring the best softball players on the planet this summer."

CBS Sports will televise a total of seven games during the monthlong season, while ESPN will broadcast the remaining 23 games across its platforms.

The new venture is currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 30, with games running until Sept. 29. All games will be played at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Illinois, the Chicago-area softball-specific stadium also home to the Chicago Bandits of National Pro Fastpitch.

Athletes Unlimited markets itself as a break from the traditional model of professional sports leagues. There are no set rosters, with 56 players instead drafted onto one of four teams by a team captain each week. Players will be ranked according to points accumulated for both team success and individual performance, with the week's leaders named captains for the following week and the points leader for the season named individual champion.

"The newly-formed Athletes Unlimited offers fans a distinctive new competitive set-up, along with an innovative viewer experience," ESPN executive vice president, programming, Burke Magnus said in a statement. "We are thrilled to collaborate with the league in their inaugural season. ESPN loves the sport of softball and we are eager to enhance our women's sports programming portfolio with this new addition."

Players already signed include current Team USA's Amanda Chidester, Haylie McCleney, Cat Osterman and Kelsey Stewart, as well as former NCAA player of the year Kelly Barnhill.