|Owner:||The Walt Disney Company (80%)|
Hearst Corporation (20%)
|Sister Names:||ESPN 2|
ESPN on ABC
|Launch:||September 7, 1979|
|Former Names:||Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (never used on air)|
|Picture Format:||480i (SDTV)|
|Slogan:||The Worldwide Leader in Sports|
|Sat Serv 1:||DirecTV|
|Sat Chan 1:||206 (SD/HD)|
|Sat Serv 2:||Dish Network|
|Sat Chan 2:||140 (SD)|
|Cable Serv 1:||Available on most cable systems|
|Cable Chan 1:||Check local listings for channels|
|Online Serv 1:||AT&T U-Verse|
|Online Chan 1:||602 (SD)|
|Adsl Serv 1:||Verizon Fios|
|Adsl Chan 1:||70 (SD) |
|Key People:||George Bodenheimer, President|
|Founder:||Scott Rasmussen and Bill Rasmussen|
It was founded by Scott Rasmussen and his father Bill Rasmussen and launched on September 7, 1979, under the direction of Chet Simmons, who was the network's first President and CEO (and later became the United States Football League's first commissioner). Getty Oil Company provided the funding to begin the new venture. George Bodenheimer is ESPN's current president, a position he has held since November 19, 1998; since March 3, 2003, he has been the head of ABC Sports as well, which has since been rebranded as ESPN on ABC (though ABC Sports still legally has a separate existence).
ESPN's signature telecast, SportsCenter, debuted with the network and aired its 30,000th episode on February 11, 2007. ESPN broadcasts primarily out of its studios in Bristol, Connecticut; it also operates offices out of New York City; Seattle, Washington; Charlotte, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California; the Los Angeles office is scheduled to open at L.A. Live in 2009. The name of the sport company was lengthened to "ESPN Inc." in February 1985.
ESPN markets itself as "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," a slogan that appears on nearly all company media but whose origin is unknown.
Most programming on ESPN and its affiliated networks is composed of live or tape-delayed sporting events and sports-related news programming (such as SportsCenter) with the remainder filled by sports-related talk shows (such as Around the Horn, Jim Rome is Burning, Outside the Lines, and PTI) and sports-related documentaries.
ESPN was originally thought up by Bill Rasmussen, a television sports reporter for WWLP, the NBC affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts. In the mid-1970s, Rasmussen worked for the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers, selling commercial time for their broadcasts. His son Scott, a former high school goaltender, was the team's public-address announcer. Both were fired in 1977 and Rasmussen sought a new business venture. His original idea was a cable television network (then a fairly new medium) that focused on covering sports events in the state of Connecticut (for example, the Hartford Whalers, Bristol Red Sox, and the Connecticut Huskies). When Rasmussen was told that buying a continuous 24-hour satellite feed was less expensive than buying several blocks of only a few hours a night, he expanded to a 24-hour nationwide network. The channel's original name was ESP, for Entertainment and Sports Programming, but it was changed prior to launch.
ESPN started with the debut of SportsCenter hosted by Lee Leonard and George Grande on September 7, 1979. Afterwards was a pro slow pitch softball game. The first score on SportsCenter was from women's tennis on the final weekend of the US Open.
To help fill 24 hours a day of air time, ESPN aired a wide variety of sports events that broadcast networks did not show on weekends, including Australian Rules Football, Davis Cup tennis, professional wrestling, boxing, and additional college football and basketball games. The U.S. Olympic Festival, the now-defunct competition that was organized as a training tool by the United States Olympic Committee, was also an ESPN staple during this time. ESPN also aired business shows and exercise videos.
ESPN (along with the USA Network) was among the earliest cable-based broadcast partners for the National Basketball Association (NBA). Lasting from 1982 - 84, the network's relationship with the association marked its initial foray into the American professional sports sector. After an eighteen-year hiatus, ESPN (by then, under the auspices of the ABC network), secured a $2.4 billion/six-year broadcast contract with the NBA, thereby revitalizing its historic compact with U.S. professional basketball.
In 1983, The United States Football League (USFL) made its debut on ESPN and ABC. The league (which lasted for three seasons) enjoyed ephemeral success, some portion of which was a byproduct of the exposure afforded through ESPN's coverage.
In 1987, ESPN gained partial rights to the National Football League. The league agreed to the deal as long as ESPN agreed to simulcast the games on local television stations in the participating markets. ESPN Sunday Night Football would last for 19 years and spur ESPN's rise to legitimacy. In the 2006 NFL season, ESPN began airing Monday Night Football, formerly seen on its sister network ABC. (NBC took over the Sunday night game, which replaced the Monday night contest as the league's weekly centerpiece game.) Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue credits ESPN for revolutinizing the NFL, "ESPN was able to take the draft, the pregame and highlight shows, and other NFL programming to a new level."
In 1990, ESPN added Major League Baseball to its lineup with a $400 million contract. ; the contract has been renewed and will continue through at least 2011. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are the longtime voices of the network's centerpiece Sunday Night Baseball.
ESPN broadcast each of the four major professional sports leagues in North America from 2002 until 2004, when it cut ties with the National Hockey League ; the network had aired NHL games from 1983-86 and again since 1993.
ESPN has been broadcasting Major League Soccer games about once a week on ESPN2 since that league's inception in 1996. In most years, the annual All-Star Game and MLS Cup championship game, and in some years the Opening Night game, are shown on ABC broadcast stations.
ESPN broadcasts 65 sports, 24 hours a day in 15 languages in more than 150 countries.
What set ESPN apart from the rest of the competition is that they got the top reporters for each of their respective sports by the early 1990's. Some examples included: Peter Gammons (baseball), Chris Mortensen (football), Al Morganti (hockey), and David Aldridge (basketball), and Mel Kiper Jr. (NFL Draft). They later added top-notch reporters including Andrea Kremer, Ed Werder, Mark Schwartz, and Greg Garber.
The 1990s and early 2000s saw considerable growth within the company. In 1993, ESPN2 was founded, with Keith Olbermann and Suzy Kolber launching the network with SportsNite. Three years later, ESPNEWS was born, with Mike Tirico as the first anchor. In 1997, ESPN purchased Classic Sports Network and renamed it ESPN Classic. The latest ESPN network in the U.S., ESPNU, began on March 4, 2005.
ESPN International began in the early 1990s to take advantage of the growing satellite markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Canada, ESPN, Inc. purchased a minority share of TSN and RDS (in fact, the current corporate logo of both looks similar to that of ESPN). In 2004, ESPN finally entered the European market by launching a version of ESPN Classic, and in December 2006, it agreed to purchase North American Sports Network. On February 1st 2009, NASN was re-branded as ESPN America. SportsCenters primary three broadcasts each day are at 1 a.m. ET (which re-airs usually until 9 AM ET), 6 p.m. ET, and 11 p.m. ET.
In 1994, ESPN set the standard for understanding the role of sports in America with the creation of The ESPN Sports Poll by Dr. Richard Luker. The Sports Poll was the first ongoing national daily study of sports fan activities and interests in the United States. Sporting News acknowledged the accomplishments of The ESPN Sports Poll and Dr. Luker in 1996.
With the increasing costs of live sports entertainment, such as the U.S.$8.8 billion costs for NFL football broadcasts rights for eight years, "scripted entertainment has become a luxury item for ESPN," said David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.
From 1996 onward, ESPN was closely integrated with ABC Sports. That year, Steve Bornstein, president of ESPN since 1990, was made president of ABC Sports as well. This integration culminated in the 2006 decision to merge ABC Sports' operations with ESPN. As a result, all of ABC's sports programming now uses ESPN on ABC. However, ABC Sports is still legally separate from ESPN (see below).
ESPN is currently building a full-fledged broadcast production facility in downtown Los Angeles, as a part of the L.A. Live complex across from the Staples Center. The five-story facility will house an ESPN Zone restaurant on the first two floors and two television production studios with digital control rooms on upper floors. It is scheduled to open in spring 2009. One of the studios will host late-night editions of SportsCenter.
In 2007, ESPN signed an agreement with the Arena Football League to broadcast at least one game every weekend, usually on Monday nights.
As of January 15, 2008, ESPN has signed a multi-million dollar contract with professional gaming circuit Major League Gaming or MLG for short. Although some have argued that professional gaming is not a physical sport, ESPN has gone ahead with this collaboration.
See also: Criticism of ESPN.
As mentioned, William Rasmussen founded the show. Just before ESPN launched, Getty Oil Company (later purchased by Texaco, which in turn was acquired by Chevron) agreed to buy a majority stake in the network.
In 1984, ABC made a deal with Getty Oil to acquire ESPN. ABC retained an 80% share, and sold 20% to Nabisco. The Nabisco shares were later sold to Hearst Corporation, which still holds a 20% stake today. In 1986, ABC was purchased for $3.5 billion by Capital Cities Communications. In 1995, The Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion and picked up an 80% stake in ESPN at that time. According to an analysis published by Barron's magazine in February 2008, ESPN "is probably worth more than 40% of Disney's entire value... based on prevailing cash-flow multiples in the industry."
Although ESPN has been operated as a Disney subsidiary since 1996, it is still technically a joint venture between Disney and Hearst.ESPN will take a relation with Disney's new channel, Disney XD, which is replacing Toon Disney
ESPNHD, launched March 30, 2003, is a 720p high-definition simulcast of the cable television network ESPN, both owned by Disney that broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ESPNHD along with sister network ABCHD use the 720p HD line standard because the ABC executives proposed a progressive 'p' signal resolves fluid and high speed motion in sports better, particularly during slow motion replays.
All Bristol studio shows and most live events on ESPN are produced high definition. ESPN is one of the few networks with an all-digital infrastructure. Shows that are recorded elsewhere − such as Jim Rome Is Burning (Los Angeles); Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn (Washington, D.C.) are presented in a standard definition, 4:3 format with stylized pillar boxes. ESPN, however maintains a policy that any video that originates in high definition must remain in HD when aired on ESPNHD. Unlike all other sports programming networks, ESPN charges for its HD channel.
Recently the network has come under considerable scrutiny from industry technicians and early adopters of HD due to a recent noticeable degradation in picture quality, specifically during live events. It is unclear whether this is the result of over-compression, rate shaping or bit starving from cable and satellite providers or something amiss in the ESPN distribution chain.
President, ESPN, Inc.
Executive Vice President, Studio and Remote Production
Advertising on ESPN is sold out for months in advance. Major advertisers such as Apple Inc., FedEx, and United Parcel Service are continually buying advertisements to reach the 15-35 year old male audience. ESPN's ad revenue averages $441.8 million with an ad rate of $9,446 per 30 second slot.
1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014
The NBA on ESPN
WNBA on ESPN (Originally the WNBA on ESPN2)
1982 - present (contracts with individual bowl games; the first live college football game telecast on ESPN was the 1982 Independence Bowl)
January 2011 - 2014
1998 - 2010
1979 - 2013 (originally tape delayed)
1991 - 2013
1995 - 2010
2003 - 2010
until at least 2023 
(?) - 2007
until at least 2017 
1980 - 1990 (Contract with NCAA)
1979 - 2017
2008 - 2016, ESPN Plus (ESPN Plus has exclusive rights to some games in Big 12 markets to protect stations purchasing its syndicated package)
1979 - 2013, ESPN PlusESPN also broadcasts a range of horse racing and tennis events. It may sometimes acquire the rights to programming in other sports which airs only on ESPN 360, usually because another broadcaster holds the TV rights.
2003 - 2008Major Indoor Soccer League
ESPN has become a part of popular culture since its inception. Many movies with a general sports theme will include ESPN announcers and programming into their storylines (such as in , which gently lampoons the channel's multiple outlets by referencing the as-yet-nonexistent ESPN8, "The Ocho" , a reference to a nickname sometimes used for ESPN2, "the Deuce"). In the theatrical hit "Waterboy", Adam Sandler's character Bobby Boucher has his college football accomplishes tracked through several fictional "SportsCenter" newscasts including the "Bourbon Bowl." Also, ESPN.com Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons often jokes that he is looking forward to running a future network in any given column; SportsCenter anchors appeared as themselves in music videos by Brad Paisley ("I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)") and Hootie and the Blowfish ("Only Wanna Be With You"); and the short-lived 1998 TV series Sports Night (by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin) was based around an ESPN-style network and its titular, SportsCenter-analogue flagship sports results program.
Many jokes have been made by comedians about fake obscure sports that are shown on ESPN. Dennis Miller mentioned watching "sumo rodeo," while George Carlin stated that ESPN showed "Australian dick wrestling". One of several Saturday Night Live skits poking fun at the network features ESPN2 airing a show called Scottish Soccer Hooligan Weekly, which includes a fake advertisement for "Senior Women's Beach Lacrosse." In the early years of ESPN, "The Late Show with David Letterman" even featured a "Top Ten List" poking fun at some the obscure sports seen on ESPN at the time. One of the more memorable sports on the list was "Amish Rake Fighting."
|Owner:||The Walt Disney Company (80%)|
Hearst Corporation (20%)
|Picture Format:||480i (SDTV)|
ESPN Now was a former rolling digital cable barker channel which aired from 2001-2004 and featured a scoring ticker, along with ESPN and Go.com promotional advertising. It mainly was used to promote ESPN's college sports pay per view packages to viewers. The channel was eventually discontinued with the rise of video on demand.
Several times ESPN programing has been drastically altered because of coverage of world events.
Both ESPN and ESPN2 carried ABC News coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The only original program produced after the preemption was a shortened 6pm edition of Sportscenter which focused on covering the cancellations of sporting events in reaction to the terror attacks.
ESPN carried the first day of the 2003 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament due to CBS's coverage of the Invasion of Iraq. The games were still produced by CBS and distributed to the correct markets through cable companies. The only identifiers of ESPN was the bottomline graphic which ran throughout the entire telecast.
ESPN is also widely known as the Evil Four Letter in the sport talk radio circuit.