The APP Tour pickleball schedule. The APP Tour pickleball schedule.

In just a short span, pickleball’s presence on ESPN’s platforms has grown tremendously. Last August, pickleball was featured for the first time on the regular “The Ocho” day of off-the-radar sports coverage on ESPN2. ESPN then signed an agreement with the Professional Pickleball Association in December to air that organization’s team championships final on ABC. And now, they’ve teamed up with the “Association of Pickleball Professionals” (a different group!) for a full season of coverage of the APP Tour. Most of that will only stream live on ESPN+, but there will also be eight recap shows on ESPN2.

Here’s more from that release:

ESPN and the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) announced an agreement for ESPN2 to broadcast eight, one-hour event recap shows on ESPN2, and ESPN+ to stream more than 200 hours of live coverage of eight of the APP Tour’s 2023 events, expanding coverage of one of the country’s fastest-growing sports.

“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,” said Tim Bunnell, Senior Vice President, Programming, ESPN.  “We are excited to be part of this sport’s upward trajectory.”

“This is a historic announcement for pickleball,” commented Tom Webb, APP Chief Marketing Officer. “We are delighted to team up with ESPN to showcase the talents and stories of the best players in the world, and enable millions of pickleball players nationwide to tune in to our tournaments.”

This deal is only for eight of the 22 APP Tour events in 2023. But it does include all four of that tour’s majors (in Daytona Beach from Feb. 8-12, Southern California from May 3-7, Chicago from Aug. 31-Sept. 3, and Dallas from Oct. 4-8), plus the championship (Mesa, Arizona, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3). And it’s interesting to see a sport like pickleball that’s only recently attracting a lot of media coverage wind up with this kind of deal, especially one that includes a linear component (even if that’s recap shows rather than full events). We’ll see how this works out for ESPN and the APP.

[ESPN Press Room, APP Tour]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.