ESPN has been airing the Little League World Series in some capacity since 1987, and ABC has aired LLWS coverage since 1963. Now, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, the four letter behemoth has signed an eight year extension with the event for $60 million, nearly double what the last agreement was worth.
ESPN finalized a deal that ensures it will carry the Little League World Series through 2022.
As part of the deal with Little League International, which was first reported by SportsBusiness Journal in June, ESPN will pay around $60 million over the eight-year extension, around $7.5 million per year, sources said.
The deal ensures ESPN will have live programming available during the dog days of August, a critical element, especially given the recent launch of Fox Sports 1. Ourand also reports on the ratings for the LLWS:
Those ratings have remained consistent over the past several years, Williamson said. ESPN averaged 911,000 viewers for this year’s Little League World Series through Aug. 18, a viewership figure that’s up 12 percent over last year. Its 0.6 average rating is flat.
While it’s easy to see why ESPN would desire such an arrangement, this may also be a sign that the live sports broadcast rights bubble has yet to reach a bursting point. With college football, NFL, and MLB rights agreements skyrocketing in value lately, this agreement seems to be something of a trickle down effect. Certainly the presence of other players in the 24-hour sports channel market in Fox Sports 1, and to a lesser extent, NBC Sports Network will serve to forestall any bursting of the rights bubble, and continue to drive rights fees higher, at least in the near term. So, get ready for more kids playing baseball on your tv, and perhaps, a higher cable bill.