Arguably the most important individual
in the development
of televised sports
, as the longtime president
Sports. Arledge's innovations and vision
helped make TV sports what it is today. Most known for launching the long running shows Monday Night Football
, Wide World of Sports
, and Nightline
(as news director
of ABC for a period, as well).
Arledge (DOB: July 8, 1931 in Forest Hills, New York) was important for much more than the shows he created. It was his production techniques and innovations that helped revolutionize sports television, and television in general. Features including instant replay, slow motion, use of multiple camera angles and views (including closeup shots, overhead blimp views and fan views), use of on-field microphones, graphics and special effects were Arledge's ideas and creations.
A year after arriving at ABC, Arledge created Wide World of Sports in 1961. The show brought "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" (a phrase which Arledge himself created) to viewers, showing them sports from all over the world.
In 1970, two years after becoming president of ABC Sports, Arledge took a bigger risk, bringing Monday Night Football to the air. The NFL was still fairly new and pro football didn't have the nationwide following it does now. Arledge hired the opinionated Howard Cosell to head the broadcast announcing. MNF became a hit, catapulting both ABC Sports and the NFL into the national limelight, and allowing Arledge to experiment with many of the audio and video techniques listed above.
Arledge brought the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics to ABC, and 10 of the 14 Summer and Winter Olympics from 1964-1988 would be broadcast on the network. Under his production, his broadcast team developed the human interest stories that remain prevalent in Olympics coverage. When in 1972, the Munich Olympics was marred by terrorism, Arledge's crew covered the horrible events and brought the tragedy to the viewing public. 1980's Miracle on Ice was also broadcast on ABC, under Arledge's watch. He helped make the Olympics into the televised sports extravaganza it has become.
ABC hoped he could bring similar success to their news division, naming Arledge president in 1977. He supervised the launches of news magazines "20/20" and "PrimeTime Live" (both of which, along with CBS's "60 Minutes", helped the genre gain the popularity it maintains today), and also was responsible for "Nightline" with Ted Koppel. Arledge's work helped reverse ABC News' fortunes, putting it at or close to the top.
Arledge remained president of ABC Sports until 1986, became chairman of ABC News in 1997 (effectively stepping aside as president of the news division) and retired in 1998.
The honors Arledge received go on and on. 36 Emmy Awards (37 according to abcsports.com article). Named one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th century by Life Magazine in 1990. Elected to the Television Academy Hall of Fame, also in 1990. In 1994, Sports Illustrated honored its 40th anniversary by selecting the 40 individuals who most impacted sports in the previous 40 years; Arledge was chosen as 3rd, behind only Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. And on, and on.
On December 5, 2002, Roone Arledge died at the age of 71 in New York City from complications from cancer.
However his legacy goes on. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Arledge was largely responsible for bringing sports television (and in fact, sports in general) into the prominent role it currently plays in American society.
http://espn.go.com/classic/obit/arledgeobit.html (ESPN.com obituary)
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/news/2002/12/05/arledge_obit_ap/ (CNN/AP obituary)
http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct/win99/18.html (Columbia University article on Arledge, who graduated from Columbia in 1952)
http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/A/htmlA/arledgeroon/arledgeroon.htm (Museum of Broadcast Communications bio)