ESPN, WNBA extend agreement

NEW YORK -- ESPN and the WNBA have extended their agreement through the 2022 season, ESPN president John Skipper and WNBA president Laurel Richie announced at a news conference Thursday in New York City.

The deal will extend ESPN's relationship with the league to 26 years, dating to the WNBA's inaugural season in 1997.

The new agreement allows up to 30 live games to be televised each season on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and WatchESPN, including coverage of the playoffs, draft and All-Star Game. In addition, for the first time, ESPN will telecast the WNBA draft in prime time at 8 p.m. ET April 15.

"This strengthens ESPN's commitment to the league and helps solidify us as the home of women's sports content," Skipper said. "We want to be active participants in growing the league."

Also in attendance at Thursday's event was NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, WNBA star Swin Cash and former NBA star Bill Laimbeer, who recently was hired to coach the New York Liberty and who previously won three WNBA titles as coach of the Detroit Shock.

At the event, Richie also revealed the WNBA's new logo, which marked the first time the logo had been modified since the league launched 16 years ago.

Richie explained that the new logo better embodies the athleticism and diversity of today's WNBA players, while still embracing the traditional silhouette logo that fans have come to associate with both the NBA and WNBA.

"The logowoman represents so many things to me," Cash said. "It is a symbol of strength, growth and leadership ... like our players, the woman in the logo is sleek, smooth and ready to ball."

Both Skipper and Richie mentioned the need to harness the star power of the WNBA's incoming draft class, which includes Baylor center Brittney Griner, Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins. Skipper said ESPN should take advantage of these transcendent college stars entering the league.

"When you have that name recognition coming into the league, eyeballs will follow," Laimbeer said.

ESPN also said it will continue to enhance its production and commitment to the sport with behind-the-scenes access to WNBA teams, players and coaches.

Highlighted in the news release were a number of additional features that ESPN and the league hope will give fans greater access and new perspectives. Some of these items include a referee camera to give fans an official take on the action and "look ins" that would provide virtually unlimited access inside shootarounds, game-day preparation and locker rooms.

"There is nothing greater than having a partnership with a company whose commitment to women's sports is deep," Richie said. "I think this is going to be a seminal season for the WNBA. This is a moment in time that I think we are poised and primed to capitalize on."

The 2013 WNBA season tips off May 27 with a doubleheader on ESPN2.