New deal expands coverage to 63 games

ESPN has clamped an 11-year lock on the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in a rights deal worth about $200 million.

The existing contract for $19 million over seven years expires at the end of the 2001-02 season. But the new deal, which runs from 2003 to 2014, expands the number of women’s basketball games ESPN and ESPN2 will cover from about 30 a year to the full complement of 63 a year.

ESPN and ESPN 2 will be able to squeeze all of those games into its schedule because the networks will do simultaneous regional feeds of 48 games during the first two rounds of the tournament. All of the games will be available to subscribers who pay extra for “ESPN Full Court,” the package of out-of-market games delivered by satellite TV and digital cable.

Stuffed into the ESPN deal are 20 other college championships, including the men’s and women’s college baseball World Series, soccer, ice hockey and indoor track and field.

ESPN also will have more access to the open practices of the Final Four teams involved in the NCAA Men’s Championships to do special reports on the games, which CBS will telecast.

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