OKLAHOMA CITY, USA — The popularity and media coverage of softball continues to grow globally as the WBSC-recognised governing body for softball within the United States — USA Softball — has reached a multi-year agreement with ESPN to broadcast the World Cup of Softball.
Starting with the 2017 World Cup of Softball XII and continuing through 2020, ESPN will hold the production and distribution rights for games featuring the USA Women’s National Team and the Championship Game for each annual edition of the World Cup of Softball.
ESPN’s family of networks will air over 10 hours of live coverage, which will be highlighted by multiple prime time windows and will conclude with the Championship Game on Sunday, 9 July at 12 p.m. local time.
The sports-only television network will broadcast and live stream the games via their network of channels and their mobile app. All other games of the World Cup of Softball will be live streamed for free through USASoftball.com. The tournament is a round robin format, which will feed into the Championship Playoff Round.
“We’re excited to bring top-level international softball to fans through the ESPN networks for the next four years,” said USA Softball Executive Director Craig Cress. “Fans will have the opportunity to watch the top four ranked teams in the world compete here in Oklahoma City, along with very talented ranked teams like Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and our Junior National Team squad. As the momentum continues to build towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, we are thrilled to be showcasing the best softball in the world and our sport on the ESPN networks.”
This announcement comes on the heels of the most-watched and streamed NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS) finals in WCWS finals history. Averaging a total live-audience (TV + streaming) of 1.72 million viewers, viewership of the event was up 33% from the first two games of the NCAA WCWS finals in 2016.
“ESPN is extremely pleased to reach an agreement with USA Softball to showcase the World Cup of Softball in the wake of the sport’s return to the Summer Olympics,” said ESPN Vice President of Women’s Sports Programming Carol Stiff. “The premier annual event adds to our deep softball portfolio that now includes more than 600 college softball regular season games annually across our platforms prior to our comprehensive coverage of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship and the Women’s College World Series. Throughout our entire history, women’s sports have been a vital part of ESPN’s programming content offerings and will continue to be into the future.”
The WBSC-sanctioned World Cup of Softball, which begins 5 July, features World No 1. Japan, No. 2 USA, No. 3 Canada, No. 4 Australia, No. 7 Puerto Rico, No. 10 Mexico, No. 17 Philippines and the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team.