ESPN Adds World Lacrosse Rights as Olympic Push Intensifies

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World Lacrosse, the sport’s international governing body, and ESPN have agreed to a three-championship broadcast deal that runs through 2023. The agreement includes domestic and international rights to the upcoming women’s and men’s World Lacrosse championships in 2022 and 2023, respectively, along with the rights to this summer’s men’s U21 championship.

In total, 246 games across the three events will be distributed across ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN+ in the U.S. World Lacrosse will also get global distribution in more than 170 territories through ESPN’s international networks, which reach from Canada to Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa to the Pacific Rim.

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The agreement marks the first multiyear, multi-event media partnership for the governing body, which has 75 member federations across six continents. Notably, the deal features equal rights fees across the men’s and women’s senior championships, which are held every four years. No further financial details were disclosed.

“ESPN is the ideal partner to further showcase our great sport around the globe as we experience exponential growth and interest in the game,” World Lacrosse CEO Jim Scherr said in a statement. “This unprecedented coverage also provides a significant boost to our Olympic proposal as we seek to gain inclusion in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games.”

The Los Angeles Games are top of mind as World Lacrosse pushes for the sport’s inclusion. The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) recently announced the addition of an annual offseason tournament to its calendar, which will be played in the new, shrunken, six-on-six format that could be featured in the Olympics. (Traditional lacrosse features 10 players to a side on a 110-yard field.) ESPN also picked up the rights to that annual sixes showcase, which will debut in February.

The broadcaster will kick off its World Lacrosse coverage this summer, showing 112 games during the women’s championship, including six on linear television—the first time the women’s championship has had linear distribution in the U.S. since 2005 (when the championship game landed on CSTV). ESPN will then broadcast 22 games from the U21 event, a junior-level championship, domestically and internationally. Coverage of next year’s men’s championship, which will take place next June in San Diego, will match the women’s event this year.

“ESPN is excited to add extensive coverage of the World Lacrosse championships to our already expansive lacrosse vertical,” said Dan Margulis, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions.

ESPN is now the sport’s dominant distributor after picking up women’s professional lacrosse rights through its partnership with Athletes Unlimited earlier this year to complement its recent agreements with both the National Lacrosse League (NLL), an indoor professional men’s lacrosse league, and the PLL. ESPN was already home to a large slate of college lacrosse games, and now adds to its expanding portfolio of live rights as sports continue to shine amid major television consumption shifts and the growth of its streaming service.

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