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Little League Signs 8-Year Television Contract Extension with ESPN

Contract will allow Little League International to provide even more direct benefits to local leagues

Click here to download the news conference with Little League International President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen D. Keener.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Jan. 4, 2007) – Little League International has signed an eight-year television contract extension with ESPN that will expand national coverage to include all eight of its baseball and softball world series tournaments, it was announced today by Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, and John Skipper, executive vice president, content, ESPN, Inc.
A crew of more than 25 was at the Little League Southern Region Headquarters recently, filming four public service announcements (PSAs) that will begin airing this winter as part of the new agreement with ESPN. In this photo, the crew is preparing for one of the scenes, filmed at Arnold S. White, Sr. Stadium.

At least 49 games in all eight divisions of Little League Baseball and Softball will be televised nationally each year starting in August 2007. The U.S. and World Championship games in the Little League Baseball World Series will again be televised on ABC, with other games appearing on ESPN’s expanding family of networks. Previously, the greatest number of Little League games to be televised nationally was 43, in 2006.

“Having Little League games on national television has helped us communicate the benefits of our program to millions of viewers annually since 1963,” Mr. Keener said. “We’re grateful that our partners at ESPN share that vision, and we are pleased to announce that the coverage has now expanded to all divisions of Little League play. We also are pleased to announce that this new contract means that Little League International will be able to provide more than $1 million in direct financial benefits to local Little League programs.”

The multi-media agreement includes coverage across 15 ESPN platforms – ESPN on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD, ESPN Classic, Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN International, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN360 (the company’s growing interactive and customizable broadband service), Mobile ESPN Publishing (ESPN’s wireless content licensing business) and other ESPN-branded services (i.e. iPod, video-on-demand, etc.).

“Little League Baseball captures the heart of sport – a balance of competitiveness, sportsmanship, and passion for the game,” Mr. Skipper said. “This new deal will allow fans to enjoy – any way they choose – these moments that touch so many.”

In 2007, for the first time, all 32 games of the Aug. 17-26 Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa., will be televised on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2.

In addition, ESPN and ESPN2 will continue to carry all eight of the U.S. Regional Championship finals in the Little League Baseball division. The U.S. regional finals have been televised by ESPN and ESPN2 every year since 1997.

In this photo, two Little League Softball players prepare for their scene. The players in each of the PSAs are wearing uniforms from the Official Little League Uniform Program. Local Little Leagues can purchase uniforms like these, with any lettering desired, at
XP Apparel

The two semifinal games and the World Championship game of the Little League Softball World Series (11-12-year-olds), scheduled for Aug. 9-15 in Portland, Ore., will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.

The championship games of the following tournaments also will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2: Junior League Baseball (13-14-year-olds), at Taylor, Mich., Aug. 12-18; Senior League Baseball (14-16-year-olds), at Bangor, Maine, Aug. 12-18; Big League Baseball (16-18-year-olds), at Easley, S.C., July 28-Aug. 4; Junior League Softball (13-14-year-old girls), at Kirkland, Wash., Aug. 12-18; Senior League Softball (14-16-year-old girls), at Lower Sussex, Del., Aug. 5-11; and Big League Softball (16-18-year-old girls), at Kalamazoo, Mich., Aug. 13-18.

The contract extension calls for more than 390 Little League Baseball and Softball tournament games to be televised nationally through 2014, which will mark the 75th anniversary of Little League’s first season, in 1939.

New Contract Provides Direct Benefits to Local Little Leagues

“Our new partnership with ESPN will bring a significant increase in value,” Mr. Keener said. “As a result of that, we have taken definitive steps to increase the financial benefits provided to our local leagues.”

Free Background Checks – In partnership with ChoicePoint, Little League International will provide every local Little League in the U.S. with 80 free criminal background checks of volunteers in each league. Additional checks will be $1 each.

During the last several years, ChoicePoint has provided the checks to local Little Leagues at a cost of $1.50 per person. In 2006, nearly 100,000 background checks were conducted on Little League volunteers through ChoicePoint.

Normally, the cost for these background checks to non-Little League organizations may be as high as $19.95 per person thorough ChoicePoint. This arrangement with ChoicePoint represents a savings to local leagues of more than $1 million, but also provides easy access to a more efficient and thorough process for local leagues to screen volunteers.

Mandatory background checks for all managers, coaches and certain other volunteers began in Little League in 2003. At a minimum, local leagues are required to conduct a check of the National Sex Offender Database on these volunteers. However, a more extensive criminal background check, such as that offered through ChoicePoint, is recommended.

Charter Fees Reduced – For the first time in Little League’s 68-year history, the fees paid by the local volunteer organizations to become “chartered” Little Leagues will decrease for every division of play. In 2006, charter fees were $18 per team.

In 2007, fees have been lowered to $16 per team, representing a savings of more than $300,000 per year for local leagues.

Promotional Messages – While having 49 games on national television per year, adding up to more than 100 hours of programming, is one of the best ways for Little League International to communicate its message to the public, Little League also will receive time for public service announcements (PSAs) during other times of the year on the ESPN family of networks.

  Some of the “actors” from the PSAs pose for a photo at home plate. Each of the PSAs is designed to help boost interest in signing up for all the divisions of Little League Baseball and Softball.

Some of the PSAs will be aired during the winter and spring, and are aimed at promoting registration at the local Little League level.

Coaching Initiative – Still being formulated, it is Little League International’s intent to offer an on-line coaches resource center and training program at no charge to all Little League managers and coaches worldwide. Based on the fees charged to individual coaches or leagues in other youth baseball and softball programs, this initiative represents a savings of more than $250,000 for local Little Leagues and volunteers.

Services Already Provided by Little League

“We’re grateful to ESPN for making it possible to offer these benefits, particularly the free background checks and the reduction in charter fees,” Mr. Keener said. “We’ve always wanted to do that for our local programs, but until now have not been able to do so.”

Included among the services currently provided to chartered local Little Leagues by Little League International:

  • Free “Little League Magazine, Presented by Major League Baseball” sent to the homes of more than 1.5 million Little Leaguers each year
  • Travel reimbursement of $1 per mile for one round trip to each tournament site beyond the district level in the Little League International Tournament. (Leagues pay a one-time fee of $75 per team to enter the International Tournament. There are no other fees charged at subsequent levels.)
  • Free travel, room and board to World Series teams at all levels.
  • Low-cost insurance fees, ranging from $18 to $48, per team, per year. Liability insurance, when purchased through Little League, annually costs from $101 per league for some leagues to $30.30 per team, per year, for leagues with more than 14 teams. Insurance fees are maintained at such a low rate in part because of ASAP (A Safety Awareness Program).
  • Each league receives two free Little League rule books for each team chartered. Little League also supplies free materials for establishing constitution, by-laws, committees, etc.
  • Free, full-time rules interpretation service by telephone and e-mail, with regional staff on duty at offices in five U.S. states and four other countries.
  • Training clinics and seminars at various locations around the U.S. and around the world each year. These clinics are for league officers, managers/coaches, umpires, and other volunteers.