ESPN and CBS Sports will broadcast Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural softball season this summer, the league announced June 30. Athletes Unlimited, a network of professional women’s sports leagues founded by former NYCFC President Jon Patricof and investor Jonathan Soros, will debut with a 30-game season at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Ill. over a five-week span starting in August. All 30 games will be available live.
CBS Sports Network will televise seven games in the United States and Canada, including the weekly matchup between the top two team captains – Athletes Unlimited will play without home cities, team owners or even fixed rosters – while ESPN will distribute 23 games combined between television and digital channels across its platforms in the U.S.
ESPN will also distribute its matchups throughout Latin America and Canada through its partnership with TSN. Details of the agreements were not disclosed.
“It was extremely important to us to offer our games to a broad audience and not require an additional paid subscription. 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,” Patricof said in the league’s press release. “We look forward to highlighting our players through compelling storytelling and incorporating new technologies that will cover every angle of play and integrate content from both players and our fans.”
Ross Mobile Productions, which has previously worked with both CBS Sports and ESPN, among others, will produce all 30 games. Athletes Unlimited said production will focus on the players and innovative technologies, including social media integration, in-game player audio and new graphics. In-house digital and social content will also be created to complement the live game linear coverage.
Athletes Unlimited’s first softball season will feature 56 players, including star outfielder AJ Andrews and Team USA’s Haylie McCleney, Kelsey Stewart, Amanda Chidester, Cat Osterman and others. The league’s scoring system will allow individual athletes to earn points based on both team wins and their own performance. Points are available on every play, creating a constantly changing leaderboard.
The top four athletes in the standings will serve as captains each week with the ability to draft their new team. At the end of the five-week season, the player atop the leaderboard with the most points will be crowned 2020’s individual champion.