ESPN has secured a wide-scale rights deal to broadcast America’s new favorite sport—pickleball.
- ESPN has reached an agreement with the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) to stream the new sport across its platforms.
- The deal consists of ESPN2 broadcasting eight one-hour pickleball event recap shows and ESPN+ streaming over 200 hours of live coverage of eight events from the sport’s annual tour.
- Event coverage for the APP will start on ESPN+ in February with the Daytona Beach Open with a recap show to air on TV on Sunday, February 12.
Why it’s news
Pickleball is the newest sport taking over the nation and making its way to becoming everyone’s new favorite sport.
Pickleball is considered the fastest-growing sport in America, with a 40% increase in players since 2020. From 2021 to 2022, more than 36.5 million people picked up the sport as their new hobby, according to estimates from the Association of Pickleball Professionals, CNBC reports.
As the sport continues to grow in popularity, it has garnered attention from professional athletes, investors, and now major sports companies. ESPN has officially secured a wide-scale rights deal to broadcast pickleball.
The deal consists of ESPN2 broadcasting eight one-hour pickleball event recap shows and ESPN+ streaming over 200 hours of live coverage of eight events from the sport’s annual tour.
“As pickleball continues to grow in popularity across the country rapidly, we are looking forward to serving fans with coverage of the APP Tour across our ESPN platforms,” says Tim Bunnell, ESPN’s senior vice president of programming. “We are excited to be part of this sport’s upward trajectory.”
The growing popularity of pickleball
What once was a hardly known sport has quickly become the fastest-growing sport in America, with over 4.8 million people in the U.S. playing the sport.
The game has garnered many investors, including professional athletes. Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently invested.
Basketball star LeBron James bought a team in September along with current basketball player Draymond Green. Super Bowl champ Tom Brady and tennis star Kim Clijsters have also invested in a team together.
Outside of athletes, others are picking up pickleball as well. Hedge fund manager Marc Lasry recently invested in a pickleball team alongside tennis player James Blake and Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, stood out with its investment as the first Fortune 500 company to buy a pickleball team.