ESPN has enjoyed multiple years of increased ratings for its women’s college volleyball coverage — and as a result has expressed interest in renewing its deal in the future.
In the meantime, however, ESPN is investing in a professional version of the game.
On Tuesday, ESPN and Athletes Unlimited announced they have signed an exclusive media deal to broadcast this year’s 30-match volleyball season, which will appear on ESPN+ and ESPN networks. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“ESPN’s coverage of Athletes Unlimited Volleyball in the fall will complement its coverage of NCAA women’s volleyball at the same time of year,” a joint statement said.
- Athletes Unlimited launched in 2020 to create women’s sports leagues where team rosters rotate every week, and one player is crowned champion based on a point system.
- The organization currently runs four sports. In both basketball and softball, athletes earned an average of five-figures each.
ESPN previously partnered with Athletes Unlimited to broadcast lacrosse and softball, but this year marks its first foray into AU Volleyball, which is entering its third season.
In the offseason, Athletes Unlimited will also combine forces with several top college programs, creating a spring “exhibition tour” where a group of star players will visit 15 teams including Ohio State, Texas, and Penn State.
“Volleyball is clearly gaining in popularity, both in terms of participation as well as fan interest at all levels,” Director of Sport for Athletes Unlimited Volleyball, Cassidy Lichtman, said in a statement. “It’s amazing to see industry leaders like ESPN recognize the value of the sport and invest in its future.”