EXCLUSIVE: ESPN has added more lacrosse to its linear and streaming offerings via a new rights deal with the Premier Lacrosse League, a burgeoning league whose initial years on the air were with NBCUniversal.
The four-year deal will put all 47 of the PLL’s games, including playoffs, across ESPN, ESPN+, ABC and ESPN2 from June through September. Since the PLL’s inaugural season in 2019, it had been carried by NBCUniversal, initially on NBC Sports Network but increasingly on Peacock.
While the official announcement of the agreement did not specify a value, multiple people familiar with its terms said it fell in the range of eight figures. While that’s far from the multi-billion-dollar outlays for the NFL at the top end of the market, for both ESPN and the burgeoning league, it is a deal with considerable upside.
“We would like to really put our shoulder behind connecting the sport at all levels,” Burke Magnus, president of ESPN programming and original content, told Deadline in an interview. “It is a fantastic college sport … and the young demo is significant.”
Already, ESPN carries men’s and women’s lacrosse, as does the ESPN-owned ACC Network. Last year, ESPN also locked a deal with the National Lacrosse League, a pro circuit that plays games indoors in a slight variation on the outdoor sport.
Paul Rabil, who co-founded the PLL and retired last year as a player in order to take a lead exec role with the league, said rights talks were held with multiple parties. NBCU was in the running to renew.
He called the ESPN deal “a testament to our gameday experience, the business teams at the PLL, growing interest level and engagement of a global lacrosse audience, as well as ESPN’s foresight and meaningful investment into a game that’s indigenous to North America – one of the fastest-growing in the U.S. today.”
PLL games will air exclusively across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN+, with all 47 games available to stream on ESPN+. More details, including game times, will be announced at a later date.
Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content, said the agreement “will maximize exposure for the league and sport as a whole, with a number of events on linear television and all games being available direct to consumer. Paul and Mike Rabil are incredible leaders and innovators in the sport and we are all looking forward to continued growth for the PLL.”
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