ESPN+ Adds Exclusive Rights to Select Regular Season NPF Games; Becomes Exclusive Home to league’s Championship Series
ESPN+ has added more exclusive content and another championship event, reaching an agreement with National Pro Fastpitch to carry regular season games throughout the summer and the league’s Cowles Cup Championship Series. The exclusive regular season slate begins Thursday, May 31, and will continue into August, featuring multiple appearances from every team in the league. ESPN+’s first season of NPF coverage will culminate with the best-of-five championship series, which gets underway Thursday, Aug. 16. ESPN+ is the first-ever multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s direct-to-consumer and international division in partnership with ESPN.
“ESPN+ will now offer the best in professional women’s softball, adding more exclusive live events to its dynamic and growing portfolio.” said Richard Mace, ESPN manager of programming and acquisitions. “In addition to a robust NPF regular season slate and the league’s championship series, fans will receive a highly personalized experience on the ESPN App and access to a multitude of professional and college games and a full library of on-demand sports content. For softball enthusiasts, ESPN+ offers hundreds of softball games each year from a variety of levels, including Little League softball in the summer and college action throughout the spring.”
“National Pro Fastpitch is thrilled to be included on ESPN+ during the subscription service’s inaugural year,” said NPF commissioner Cheri Kempf said. “Softball fans have come to rely on ESPN to deliver our fast-paced and entertaining sport, so to include the professional level among coverage options through ESPN+ is a perfect fit. We are looking forward to an exciting season of action, capped off with our Championship Series in August.”
Exclusive schedule features all five teams: Three veteran clubs, two international newcomers
ESPN+’s exclusive 13 game regular season slate is highlighted by at least four appearances by each of the five teams in the league. Schedule highlights include:
- Cleveland Comets vs. Chicago Bandits (8 p.m. May 31 and 7 p.m. Aug. 3): The first game on the ESPN+ schedule features the four-time Cowles Cup champion Bandits hosting the Comets (formerly known as the Akron Racers). The Bandits currently hold the most Cowles Cup titles of any team in the league and were the professional home of softball legend Jennie Finch. Both teams will appear six times on ESPN+ this season.
- USSSA Pride vs. Beijing Eagles (7:05 p.m. July 3 and 17): The Pride have won three Cowles Cups since joining the league in 2005 and have had nine Olympians on its roster, including current ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and Women’s College World Series analyst Jessica Mendoza. The Eagles were established in May 2017 with a roster made up primarily of players from the Chinese National Team. The Pride will play six times this season on ESPN+ and the Eagles a total of four times.
- Aussie Spirit’s inaugural season (8:05 p.m. June 5, 5 p.m. doubleheader June 10 and 8 p.m. June 26): The NPF announced an expansion in December 2017 with the addition of the Spirit. The team is operated by Softball Australia. The NPF’s newest team will be featured in four games on ESPN+
ESPN+ to add live programming and original content
National Pro Fastpitch is the latest addition to ESPN+ comprehensive lineup, which include hundreds of MLB, NHL and MLS games, Grand Slam tennis, Top Rank boxing, PGA Tour golf, college sports, international rugby, cricket, the full library of ESPN Films (including 30 for 30) and more.
ESPN’s continued commitment to the sport of softball
ESPN has long been a supporter of the sport of softball, with complete coverage of the NCAA Division I super regionals and Women’s College World Series (WCWS) for the 12th and 18th consecutive seasons, respectively. In 2017, the network expanded its coverage to include every game of the postseason. This season alone, ESPN led the industry with a schedule of more than 650 NCAA Division I games available across its family of networks and ESPN+. Supporting the sport at multiple levels, ESPN signed a multi-year deal with USA Softball in 2017 to televise games from the World Cup of Softball and added every game of the Little League Softball World Series and all of its U.S. regional tournaments to ESPN+ in 2018.
2018 NPF on ESPN+ schedule
|Thu, May 31||8 p.m.||Cleveland vs. Chicago||ESPN+|
|Tue, June 5||11 a.m.||Aussie vs. USSSA||ESPN+|
|Sun, June 10||5 p.m.||Chicago vs. Aussie||ESPN+|
|TBD||Chicago vs. Aussie||ESPN+|
|Tue, June 19||7 p.m.||Cleveland vs. USSSA||ESPN+|
|Tue, June 26||8 p.m.||Cleveland vs. Aussie||ESPN+|
|Tue, July 3||7 p.m.||Beijing vs. USSSA||ESPN+|
|Thu, July 12||6 p.m.||Beijing vs. Chicago||ESPN+|
|TBD||Beijing vs. Chicago||ESPN+|
|Tue, July 17||7 p.m.||USSSA vs. Beijing||ESPN+|
|Tue, July 24||7 p.m.||Cleveland vs. USSSA||ESPN+|
|Fri, Aug 3||7 p.m.||Chicago vs. Cleveland||ESPN+|
|Tue, Aug 7||7 p.m.||USSSA vs. Cleveland||ESPN+|
|Thu, Aug 16||TBD||Cowles Cup Championship Series||ESPN+|
|Fri, Aug 17||TBD||Cowles Cup Championship Series||ESPN+|
|Sat, Aug 18||TBD||Cowles Cup Championship Series||ESPN+|
|Sun, Aug 19||TBD||Cowles Cup Championship Series
|Mon, Aug 20||TBD||Cowles Cup Championship Series
ESPN+ is the first-ever multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International division in partnership with ESPN. It offers fans thousands of additional live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks. This includes hundreds of MLB, NHL and MLS games, Grand Slam tennis, Top Rank boxing, PGA Tour golf, college sports, international rugby, cricket, the full library of ESPN Films (including 30 for 30) and more. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year).
ESPN+ is an integrated part of a completely redesigned ESPN App. Already the leading sports app, the new ESPN App is the premier all-in-one digital sports platform for fans and is a showcase of the company’s culture of innovation. With a richer, increasingly more personalized experience, the new ESPN App curates all of ESPN’s content into an experience unique to each fan’s individual tastes. ESPN+ is also be available through ESPN.com.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Aussie Spirit, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets, and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2018 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.
NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf has been a softball analyst with ESPN since 2006 and has anchored ESPN’s WCWS studio coverage since 2008.
ESPN media contact: Kimberly Elchlepp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-424-2923; @kimelchlepp