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ESPN seals Little League rights extension

ESPN will continue to air the Little League World Series, one of the foremost events in US youth sports, through 2030, as part of a newly signed, eight-year contract extension.

The latest term builds upon an eight-year, $76m rights deal that will run through 2022. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of the 2020 version of the event. But the new deal allows ESPN through this decade to keep one of its core summertime programming anchors.

As part of the contract extension, ESPN will exclusively carry more than 300 Little League events annually, including every baseball and softball World Series tournament game. Some elements of the rights extension, including the additional game telecasts, will also be folded into the last two years of the current term.

“Little League Baseball and Softball inspire us with their deep sense of community, camaraderie, and competitive spirit,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president and Disney Media Networks co-chair. “Multiple generations have enjoyed playing and watching games on ESPN and ABC, and we’re excited to continue and expand the rewarding relationship we have with Steve Keener and all our friends at Little League Baseball and Softball.”

Little League has had a tie to ESPN sister network ABC since 1963, and ESPN itself began televising Little League games in 1983. The broadcast relationship is the second-longest continuous tie in US sports media, only trailing one between CBS Sports and The Masters.

“There is perhaps no broadcast relationship in all of sports as synonymous as Little League and ESPN and ABC,” said Keener, Little League president and chief executive. “With this extension, ESPN will be showcasing the amazing plays, inspirational stories, and exemplary sportsmanship of our Little League tournaments spanning eight decades.”

The extension arrives as Little League and Major League Baseball also set plans to revive in 2021 the MLB Little League Classic that also had been called off this year due to the pandemic. The event is also shown on ESPN as part of the network’s Sunday Night Baseball.

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