Updated at: 03/28/2013 10:39 PM
By VIN A. CHERWOO
(AP) NEW YORK - The WNBA has extended its contract with ESPN through the 2022 season.
The league and network announced Thursday they had added six years to their current broadcasting deal, which had four seasons remaining. ESPN has been televising WNBA games since its inaugural season in 1997.
"We want to be supporters of women’s sports and the WNBA is a signature league for us," ESPN President John Skipper said. "We’ve been a partner since the league started. This new deal is a sign of our commitment to continuing that partnership. We wanted to be unreserved about our enthusiasm for the league. We wanted to show our commitment early and that’s what this is all about."
Up to 30 games will be aired yearly on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
WNBA President Laurel Richie acknowledged the importance of the new deal and appreciated the network’s commitment to the league.
"The message to me is ESPN is as dedicated as we are to shining a light on women’s sports," Richie said. "It speaks volumes to the priorities, and focus and forward-thinking of ESPN.
Under the expanded deal, broadcasts will feature a referee cam worn by officials during select games and the inclusion of former players to provide their perspective on the progress of the sport through the years. The network also will have increased access to practices, shootarounds and the locker rooms before games and during halftime.
The WNBA also unveiled a rebranded logo that features a silhouette of a player in the act of shooting a layup. Previously, the silhouette was of a player dribbling, similar to the logo used by the NBA. The lettering of the league’s name also was changed to more rounded characters with a lowercase `n’ and `a.’
"We took a look at our current logo and felt that as we looked at her, she just didn’t really reflect the athleticism, the diversity and sort of the competitive nature of our game as we’re entering into our 17th season," Richie said.
Both Skipper and Richie declined to disclose the monetary value of the deal.
"It would be silly of me not to recognize there is a financial component to this deal and that is intended to help the league get more of their teams to profitability," Skipper said. "I will not comment on what that amount is no matter how many times you ask me. ... Clearly that’s there and it’s important teams have financial stability so they can grow and market and add to players’ salaries."
The WNBA draft is April 15 and the league’s 17th season opens May 24.
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(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)