ESPN is a cable television network dedicated to sports programming. The network's flagship show is SportsCenter, which airs multiple times daily and is devoted to reporting sports news with a humorous twist. It is consistently among the top five most watched cable networks in the United States, along with CNN, MTV, TBS, and Fox News, with others peeking in on occasion.

History

The network was the brainchild of Bill Rasmussen, who announced the concept of the network to the public on June 26, 1978. At the time, a cable network was considered to be something of a high risk venture, but a few companies saw a bright future in it (the big reason why virtually every cable provider provides TBS, ESPN, CNN, MTV, etc... they were there first). To gain funding for the project, including the expenses of building the Bristol, Connecticut operations base and paying for their satellite array, Bill Rasmussen sold 85% of the company to Getty Oil on February 22, 1979. With money in hand to finish the headquarters and the satellite array paid for, ESPN made their first major sports television contract on March 1, 1979, gaining from the NCAA exclusive rights to broadcast many college sporting events.

As the network neared its' debut, the first sure sign that it would be a success came on May 30, 1979, when Anheuser-Busch signed the largest advertising contract in the history of cable television to that point with ESPN. The network debuted on September 7, 1979, at 7:00 PM ET with... you guessed it, SportsCenter. The studio quite seriously looked like it was pulled wholesale from a 1970's office furniture warehouse. Fortunately, credibility was just around the horizon.

One week after its debut, prominent sports announcer Jim Simpson left NBC and joined ESPN, giving the network instant credibility both in the eyes of the media and in the eyes of the viewers at home. At this time, the network was only on the air roughly 16 hours a day, with eight hours of downtime a day. Just before the network's one year anniversary, on September 1, 1980, the network switched to an around-the-clock format. With this format, the network went to a limited amount of non-sports programming (the network's name was, after all, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network). Most notably was the morning program Nation's Business Today, a business report.

Some other highlights...

  • In 1983, the network became the largest cable network in terms of homes able to receive it, and it has largely held onto that title to today.
  • In 1989, the network debuted internationally and is today aired in more than 50 countries.
  • In 1991, the network returned to an all-sports format, replacing their long-running morning program, Nation's Business Today, with re-airs of Sportscenter.
  • In 1992, the network launched ESPN Radio, a radio offshoot of the network.
  • In 1993, ESPN2 launches, an offshoot network to provide an additional 24 hours of daily sports coverage.
  • In 1995, ESPN.com launches with coverage of the Final Four.
  • In 1996, ESPNEWS launches, an around-the-clock sports news network.
  • In 1997, ESPN acquired Classic Sports Network and renamed it ESPN Classic.

Cultural Impact

ESPN has led directly to a massive increased exposure for sports on a national stage. Due to this exposure, professional and collegiate sports in general have had much more revenue than before. One major result of this is the monstrous professional sports contracts that some players receive; another result is the great permeation that sports has in our culture, much more than before.

ESPN's mix of humor and sports coverage have drawn more people to become fans of sports; I can witness this as a fact, having become a college basketball fan due to their solid coverage of the sport, and its coverage of baseball has helped to increase my significant other's interest in that sport. The network provides an availability and accessibility to many sports that never existed before; many had never heard of the America's Cup before ESPN started covering it in great depth in 1983.

Notable ESPN Personalities

ESPN has a large number of sports commentators and broadcasters. Some of those of note include

I don't want this list to become huge, but if you have a particular ESPN employee that you feel belongs here, be sure to let me know ( /msg tes ).

Final Thoughts

The network provides quality sports coverage with a sense of humor and exposes people to sports in a friendly way. The reporting is largely unbiased, the network is widely available, and there is a great deal of variety. After all, any network that airs World's Strongest Man contests on a Saturday afternoon featuring monstrous guys named Oleg pulling semis has to be entertaining, right?

ESPN, Inc. has truly shown it is worthy of its self-proclaimed title as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Since the company’s creation on September 7, 1979, they have endeavored and persevered to maintain over 50 business entities. Although most well-known for their leading sports coverage on cable TV, ESPN certainly has many irons in the fire…

Television
Seven domestic networks, regional, syndicated, pay subscription packages, and thirty international networks

From the obvious to the obscure, ESPN, and it’s multitude of television viewing opportunities, is the source for sports. The cable network boasts over 89 million households tuning in to more than 5,100 live hours of sports programming. Their pioneer status truly took hold when they became the first network to broadcast all four major professional American sports: MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL. Their annual collection of over 65 sports include, “MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, WNBA, college football, men's and women's college basketball, including every game of the women's basketball tournament, tennis, PGA and LPGA Tour golf, Little League World Series, the X Games and the Great Outdoor Games”. Avid searchers for the obscure, however, will also find NLL, MLL, college lacrosse, the winter X games, many World Cup events, chess, Scrabble, and even the National Spelling Bee finals.

Above and beyond the sports and events that ESPN could find to televise, they have created their own events including, “the X Games, Winter X Games, X Games Global Championships; ESPN Outdoors featuring the CITGO Bassmaster Classic and Great Outdoor Games; the ESPYs, Skins Games, Jimmy V Classic (men's and women's college basketball), the PlainsCapital Fort Worth, Sheraton Hawaii and Las Vegas Bowls and College Football Awards.” The X Games have quickly become a favorite with many younger Americans and everyone has heard someone comment on seeing “them throw that big log on TV” when they were actually tuned into the Great Outdoor Games. Even the ESPYs have become newsworthy over past years as sports icons ascend further to tuxes and dresses to present awards a la The Academy Awards.

The true cornerstone of ESPN comes from its own show: SportsCenter. Well known for the theme music (all six notes of it) to easily some of the funniest commercials on TV, SportsCenter has worked its way into the center of American pop culture. Aired nightly, this daily, hour-long sports news show is a one-of-a-kind. ESPN’s figures put SportsCenter as receiving 88 million monthly viewers and having aired over 25,000 shows as of August of 2002.

On March 30, 2003, the first Major League Baseball game of the season aired as the first telecast of ESPN HD. This high-definition simulcast enjoys 1.1 million subscribers. By the end of 2005, ESPN HD will air over 60% of the ESPN broadcasting in this powerful 720 progressive scan format.

On October 1, 1993, over 10 million households witnessed a sequel they would be pleased with for years to come: ESPN2. Now in over 87 million households, the second channel for ESPN coverage is a strong equal of its parent with its 4,800 hours of live and original programming. On January 6, 2005, ESPN2 HD was launched in the same fashion as ESPN HD with over 100 live telecasts in its first year.

Originally, the folks in Ada, Oklahoma kept Classic Sports Network all to themselves until October 9, 1997, when ESPN acquired it, renamed it ESPN Classic, and aired it in more than 55 million homes. This 24-hour, all-sports network telecasts “the greatest memories in the history of sports while adding a current perspective”. Essentially, it’s the channel people watch for five minutes before realizing they are wearing shorts excessively too short because this NBA game aired, originally, thirty years ago. Also, they have an obsession with golf and pleased many viewers when they aired the Miracle on Ice game, in its entirety.

ESPNEWS first saw daylight on November 1, 1996, with 1.5 million subscribers. This immediate source of sports information show has since reinvented itself to feel newer and more cutting edge as of September 7, 2001 (the anniversary of ESPN for those keeping score). This new format has now boosted the total subscribers to over 43 million.

For our Spanish speaking friends, ESPN launched a 24-hour Spanish-language sports network in the US titled: ESPN Deportes. This network comes complete with Spanish-speaking interviews, commentators, commercials, and graphics (well, not speaking graphics, but you get the picture). Some live events proudly broadcasted on ESPN Deportes include: Dominican Baseball League, Pacific Baseball League, many professional American sports, and even Spanish SportsCenter.

poor translation…
Para nuestros amigos de habla hispana, ESPN lanzó una red de 24 horas de los deportes de la Español-lengua en los E.U. titulados: ESPN Deportes. Esta red viene completo con entrevistas de habla hispana, comentaristas, anuncios, y gráficos (bien, los gráficos de discurso, sino usted consiguen el cuadro). Algunos acontecimientos vivos difundieron orgulloso en ESPN Deportes incluyen: Liga de béisbol dominicana, liga de béisbol pacífica, muchos deportes americanos profesionales, e incluso SportsCenter español.

The multimedia gap began bridging on September 7, 2004 (again, check your scorebook, that’s ESPN’s anniversary) when ESPNU was launched. This multi-media college sports broadcast gives content for ESPN Interactive, ESPN broadband, ESPN Mobile, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, and more.

ESPN Today launched on June 5th, 2001, creating the first interactive sports channel dedicated to sports. ESPN Today provides a cornucopia of content in a CNN Headline News fashion, inundating the viewer with scores, stories, stats, standings, schedules, and general smatterings of all things sports.

Being such a whirlwind force in the U.S., who could resist ESPN’s global rule as ESPN International? Grown since 1983, and formed on January 1988, ESPN International now entails thirty networks in 192 countries. This network is aired in twelve languages: Arabic, Cantonese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish. The sports coverage is quite the same as ESPN and ESPN2 but with fantastic international additions including, but not limited to, International Cricket, Formula One auto racing, IRL, English Premier League, and UEFA Champions League. Outside of the US there are also nine, local versions of SportsCenter in Asia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Latin America, Mexico, and Taiwan.

Online
ESPN.com, ESPNDeportes.com, ESPNRadio.com, ESPNSoccernet.com, and EXPN.com

The leader of sports on the World Wide Web, ESPN.com, was launched, with much anticipation, on April 1, 1995. This pioneering site clocks over 16 million unique users each month which drives ESPN.com to the lead of sports Web sites and keeps it there. Users find all of the fantastic sports coverage known to ESPN as well as streaming video and audio content and over thirty premium and free fantasy sports. In 2003, ESPN.com received some well deserved recognition with the reception of the 2003 General Excellence in Online Journalism Award.

Radio
ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes Radio, syndicated radio reaching thirteen countries

ABC Radio led sales and affiliations to launch ESPN Radio on January 1st, 1992, a personal lifeline for this author and his sports connection. The full fleet of ESPN radio spans 250 stations from coast to coast in the United States. Aside from the plethora of sports programming, listeners can hear Mike and Mike in the Morning 6-10 AM ET; The Herd with Colin Cowherd 10AM – 1PM, and The Dan Patrick Show 1-4 PM.

Publishing
ESPN The Magazine, Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times, Fishing Tackle and Retailer, ESPN Books

Aside from newsstand sales, ESPN The Magazine has an awesome subscriber base of 1.85 million people. Since March 11, 1998, it has embodied the sports mindedness of ESPN in print form with truly eye-catching photography every single issue. ESPN The Magazine has quite the collection of awards including two 2003 Circulation Excellence Awards and the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2003.

Merchandising
ESPN Zone, TeamStore@ESPN

The retail ESPN Enterprises was created in November of 1992 to “develop new products and businesses using the ESPN brand and assets”. They certainly did. ESPN Zone restaurants create a sports-themed dining experience with plenty of likewise entertainment to boot. These are peppered in many major U.S. cities including Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, New York City, and Washington D.C. ESPN Enterprises also produce “ESPN Videogames, DVDs, CDs, ESPN Books, the ESPN Almanac, ESPN25, ESPN Golf Schools, (and) ESPN Russell Racing Schools”. All of these are also accented by ESPN merchandise, research polls, and ESPN Club located at Disney’s Boardwalk in Orlando, Florida.

Technology
ESPN On Demand, ESPN 360, Interactive TV, ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD

ESPN Broadband, or ESPN 360, was launched in August 2001to cater high-speed video content and on-demand video to subscribers. This service includes highlights, editorial content, and interviews as well as the normal (which is high quality for ESPN) sports news.

Summarized ESPN Timeline
September 9, 1979 - ESPN launches
April 1983 - ESPN distributes internationally
April 30, 1984 – ABC acquires ESPN
March 15, 1987 – ESPN gains NFL’s first cable contract
January 1, 1992 – ESPN Radio launches
October 1, 1993 – ESPN2 launches (10 million homes)
November 1, 1996 – ESPNEWS launches
July 11, 1998 – First ESPN Zone opens (Baltimore)
June 5, 2001 – ESPN Today launches
January 7, 2004 – ESPN Deportes launches

As an avid sports fan, especially of sports that receive little major network attention, I have come to simply love ESPN. SportsCenter keeps me in the loop, ESPN Radio keeps me up with the Cubbies on the go, and ESPN2 reminds me there are thousands of lacrosse fans across the globe. Yes, it’s a massive corporation with ties to Disney that likes to sink its claws into everything but hey: It’s Fun. Live a little.


Sources include, but are not limited to: ESPN.com and comScore Media Metrix

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.