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Originally published July 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 16, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Notebook | WNBA gets first TV rights fee

The WNBA will enter a new age, with a greater chance of profitability, starting in the 2009 season, thanks to the announcement Sunday that...

Seattle Times staff reporter

WASHINGTON — The WNBA will enter a new age, with a greater chance of profitability, starting in the 2009 season, thanks to the announcement Sunday that the league will receive its first television rights fee.

An eight-year deal with ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 was announced Sunday that will run to 2016.

Financial terms were not disclosed, aside from John Skipper, ESPN vice president for content, stating it's worth "millions and millions of dollars over many years."

The agreement is independent of the NBA's eight-year deal with ABC/ESPN and TNT signed in June that's worth about $930 million a year.

"It's a tremendous vote of affirmation and validation of 11 years of hard work of the tremendous athletes that lead the way for the WNBA and the growth in our fan base," WNBA president Donna Orender said of the deal.

The money will be dispersed to the league's 13 teams. Orender, however, would not say whether the NBA would still subsidize the WNBA or whether the television rights money would actually reach the players, whose average salary is about $55,000 as compared to the average NBA salary of $4.9 million.

The WNBA's current collective-bargaining agreement expires this summer, making the timing intriguing.

Indiana forward Tamika Catchings, the Women's National Basketball Players Association president, said discussions for a new agreement would pick up as the league begins the second half of the season Tuesday. Other representatives of the union said figures haven't been given by the league, but given the work of the players in the community and on the court to spread the WNBA name, they anticipate a bump in salary.

In the television agreement, ESPN or ESPN2 plan to broadcast a minimum of 18 games, primarily on Mondays, Tuesdays and weekend afternoons. Meanwhile, ABC owns exclusive rights to air the opening game each season and the All-Star game. A minimum of 11 postseason games also will be shown on one of the three networks.

Quick trip

Storm guard Betty Lennox thought her team's back-to-back afternoon games entering the All-Star break were tough — until she made a quick appearance at the All-Star festivities.

The WNBA specifically wanted Lennox in the skills challenge, contacting her twice. She had family visiting for the short midseason break. She eventually agreed to participate, but didn't travel to Washington until Sunday morning. After participating in the approximately 30-minute competition, Lennox left to catch a 5 p.m. flight back to Seattle.

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She was last among the four competitors. San Antonio guard Becky Hammon narrowly defeated defending champion Seimone Augustus, a Minnesota guard. Hammon finished the obstacle course in 27.1 seconds while Augustus' time was 27.4.

In the opening round, Lennox's time was 40.0 and Washington guard Nikki Teasley finished in 39.4.

"I wish I would have came down here and won it," she said. "Even though it was a short length of time, I had a good time."

Mystics guard Lauire Koehn won the three-point shootout, scoring 25 in the final round.

Shoot, and score

The players weren't accurate with their shooting Sunday. The Western Conference shot 37 percent from the field while the Eastern Conference was at 44.9, but the combined 202 points was second to the record 221 scored in 2005 when the West won 122-99.

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