Former ESPN, Turner Execs Invest in Pro Women’s Basketball League Unrivaled, Will Lead Media Rights

Founded by WNBA stars Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier, the three-on-three league is set to launch in January 2025

John Skipper and David Levy (Getty Images)
John Skipper and David Levy (Getty Images)

Former ESPN president John Skipper and ex-Turner Networks president David Levy joined a new venture as the latest investors for three-on-three professional women’s basketball league Unrivaled. Slated for a January 2025 launch, the league was cofounded by WNBA stars Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier.

The execs’ collaboration in bringing the league to market comes a decade after the two signed a deal with the NBA to extend TV partnerships with ESPN and TNT to 2025. Together, Skipper and Levy will lead Unrivaled’s media rights and sponsorship agreements.

“We’ve known each other for years, and we’ve been competitors, but we’ve been peers and friends as well, and we’ve done a lot of business together over those times,” Levy said in a Thursday interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Not only does the league boast two media veterans as strategic investors, it promises to offer players equity in the league and will also compensate the ballers with the highest average salary in the history of women’s professional sports.

As women’s basketball grows a steady interest, Skipper said he’s confident other industry leaders will want to get in on the opportunity.

“I would think that every major company that has a sports media component will want to look at this, we’ll take advantage of that to get in and present it, and David and my job is to find the best combination of rights fees and marketing support and even emotional and spiritual support,” he noted. “As I’ve always said, if you have one more bidder than you have packages, you have a robust market. I believe we’ll have a robust market.”

Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier (Getty Images)
Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier (Getty Images)

And the pair won’t be hitting the layup of investment on their own, as Unrivaled already has a list of backers ready to hit the court — including former Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony, U.S. soccer stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, LPGA champion Michelle Wie West, actor Ashton Kutcher and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, among other investors.

The league’s season will take place months before the WNBA’s starts. Per CNBC, Unrivaled raised an undisclosed amount during an initial seed funding round.

“I believe it’s a good investment … that David and I and the other group of investors have the chance to be on the ground floor of something that I think is going to be quite impactful,” Skipper said. “It’s a rare opportunity where we can create something … and don’t need to disrupt something else.”

Stewart was drafted into the WNBA by the Seattle Storm as a first-round, first overall pick in 2016. She currently plays power forward for the New York Liberty. Collier was drafted into the league by the Minnesota Lynx in 2019 as the sixth overall pick. The two cofounded Unrivaled.

“It’s really important to us,” Collier told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Compensation is a huge part of Unrivaled as a league and a business. All the players in this first year will have equity in the league. For players to have a piece of the pie essentially to grow their generational wealth is something we’re really excited about.”

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