ESPN (originally an acronym for ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS PROGRAMMING
NETWORKS) is a U.S.-based global cable and satellite sports television
channel owned by
ESPN Inc. , a joint venture between The Walt Disney
Company (which operates the network) and the
Hearst Corporation (which
owns a 20% minority share).
ESPN broadcasts primarily from studio facilities located in Bristol,
Connecticut . The network also operates offices in
Miami , New York
Seattle , Charlotte , and
Los Angeles .
John Skipper currently
serves as president of ESPN, a position he has held since January 1,
ESPN is one of the most successful sports networks, there
has been much criticism of
ESPN , which includes accusations of biased
coverage, conflict of interest , and controversies with individual
broadcasters and analysts.
ESPN headquarters in Bristol,
As of February 2015 ,
ESPN is available to approximately 94,396,000
paid television households (81.1% of households with at least one
television set) in the United States. Nielsen has reported a much
lower number in 2017, below 90,000,000 subscribers, losing more than
10,000 a day. In addition to the flagship channel and its seven
related channels in the United States,
ESPN broadcasts in more than
200 countries, operating regional channels in
Latin America and the
United Kingdom , and owning a 20% interest in
Sports Network (TSN) as well as its five sister networks in Canada
In 2011, ESPN's history and rise was chronicled by _These Guys Have
All the Fun_, a nonfiction book written by James Andrew Miller and Tom
Shales and published by
Little, Brown and Company .
* 1 History
* 2 Programming
* 3 Executives
* 4 Related channels
* 4.9 Other services
* 5 International channels
* 6 In popular culture
* 7 Criticism
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Bibliography
* 11 External links
History of ESPN
Bill Rasmussen conceived the concept of
ESPN in late May 1978, after
he was fired from his job with the
World Hockey Association 's New
England Whalers . One of the first steps in Bill and his son Scott 's
(who had also been let go by the Whalers) process was finding land to
build the channel's broadcasting facilities. The Rasmussens first
rented office space in
Plainville, Connecticut . However, the plan to
ESPN there was put on hold because a local ordinance prohibiting
buildings from bearing rooftop satellite dishes . Available land area
was quickly found in
Bristol, Connecticut (where the channel remains
headquartered to this day), with funding to buy the property provided
Getty Oil , which purchased 85% of the company from Bill Rasmussen
on February 22, 1979, in an attempt to diversify the company's
holdings. This helped the credibility of the fledgling company,
however there were still many doubters to the viability of their
sports channel concept. Another event that helped build ESPN's
credibility was securing an advertising agreement with Anheuser-Busch
in the spring of 1979; the company invested $1 million to be the
"exclusive beer advertised on the network."
ESPN launched on September 7, 1979, beginning with the first telecast
of what would become the channel's flagship program, _
Taped in front of a small live audience inside the Bristol studios, it
was broadcast to 1.4 million cable subscribers throughout the United
ESPN's next big break came when the channel acquired the rights to
broadcast coverage of the early rounds of the NCAA Men\'s Division I
Basketball Tournament . It first aired the NCAA tournament in March
1980, creating the modern day television event known as "March Madness
." The channel's tournament coverage also launched the broadcasting
Dick Vitale , who at the time he joined ESPN, had just been
fired as head coach of the
Detroit Pistons .
In April of that year,
ESPN created another made-for-TV spectacle,
when it began televising the
NFL Draft . It provided complete coverage
of the event that allowed rookie players from the college ranks to
begin their professional careers in front of a national television
audience in ways they were not able to previously.
The next major stepping stone for
ESPN came over the course of a
couple of months in 1984. During this time period, the American
Broadcasting Company (ABC) purchased 100% of
ESPN from the Rasmussens
and Getty Oil. Under Getty ownership, the channel was unable to
compete for the television rights to major sports events contracts as
its majority corporate parent would not provide the funding, leading
ESPN to lose out for broadcast deals with the National Hockey League
USA Network ) and
NCAA Division I college football (to TBS ). For
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball refused to consider
cable as a means of broadcasting some of their games. However, with
the backing of ABC, ESPN's ability to compete for major sports
contracts greatly increased, and gave it credibility within the sports
Later in 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA could no
longer monopolize the rights to negotiate the contracts for college
football games, allowing each individual school to negotiate broadcast
deals of their choice.
ESPN took full advantage and began to broadcast
a large number of NCAA football games, creating an opportunity for
fans to be able to view multiple games each weekend (instead of just
one), the same deal that the NCAA had previously negotiated with TBS.
ESPN's breakthrough moment occurred in 1987, when it secured a
contract with the
NFL to broadcast eight games during that year\'s
regular season – all of which aired on Sunday nights, marking the
first broadcasts of Sunday
NFL primetime games. ESPN's _Sunday Night
Football _ games would become the highest-rated
NFL telecasts for the
next 17 years (before losing the rights to
NBC in 2006). The
channel's decision to broadcast
NFL games on Sunday evenings actually
resulted in a decline in viewership for the daytime games shown on the
major broadcast networks, marking the first time that
ESPN had been a
legitimate competitor to
NBC and CBS, which had long dominated the
sports television market.
ESPN Radio , a national sports talk radio
network providing analysis and commentary programs (including shows
such as _
Mike and Mike in the Morning _ and _The Herd _) as well as
audio play-by-play of sporting events (including some simulcasted with
ESPN television channel).
On October 10, 1993,
ESPN2 – a secondary channel that originally
was programmed with a separate lineup of niche sports popular with
males 18–49 years old (with snowboarding and the World Series of
Poker as its headliners) as well as serving as an overflow channel for
ESPN – launched on cable systems reaching to 10 million subscribers.
It became the fastest growing cable channel in the U.S. during the
1990s, eventually expanding its national reach to 75 million
Ownership of ABC, and in effect control of ESPN, was acquired first
Capital Cities Communications in 1985, and then by The Walt Disney
Company in 1996. In 2012,
ESPN generated more revenue for Disney than
any of its other properties combined.
On April 26, 2017, approximately 100
ESPN employees were notified
that their position with the sports network had been terminated, among
Trent Dilfer and
Danny Kanell , and
noted journalists like
NFL beat reporter
Ed Werder and Major League
Jayson Stark . The layoffs come as
ESPN continues to
shed viewers, more than 10 million over a period of several years,
while forking over big money for the broadcast rights to such
properties as the NFL,
College Football Playoff . Further
cost-cutting measures taken include moving the studio operations of
ESPNU to Bristol from
Charlotte, North Carolina , reducing its
longtime MLB studio show _
Baseball Tonight _ to Sundays as a lead-in
to the primetime game and adding the
MLB Network -produced
Intentional Talk _ to
ESPN2 's daily lineup.
List of programs broadcast by ESPN and List of
Alongside its live sports broadcasts,
ESPN also airs a variety of
sports highlight, talk, and documentary-styled shows. These include:
Around the Horn _ – Competitive debating between four sports
writers across the country
Baseball Tonight _ – A daily recap of the day's Major League
Baseball stories and games that airs throughout the baseball season
* _College GameDay _ (basketball) – Weekly college basketball show
airing from the _
Saturday Primetime _ game of the week site
* _College GameDay _ (football) – Weekly college football preview
show airing from the site of a major college football game
* _E:60 _ – An investigative newsmagazine program focusing on
American and international sports
* _First Take _ – Monday-Friday with
Stephen A. Smith , Max
Molly Qerim (moved from
ESPN2 on January 3, 2017)
Mike and Mike in the Morning _ – A simulcast of the
morning show, focusing on current sports stories
Monday Night Countdown
Monday Night Countdown _ – Weekly recap show aired on Monday
evenings during the
NFL season, also serves as the pre-game show for
Monday Night Football _
Outside the Lines _ –
Talk and debate show that examines
critical sports issues on and off the field of play
Pardon the Interruption _ –
Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon
debate an array of sports topics
SportsCenter _ – The flagship program of ESPN, a daily sports
news program delivering the latest sports news and highlights
* _SportsNation _ – Poll-driven show based on audience
participation, including material generated or suggested by viewers
NFL Countdown _ – Weekly preview show that airs on
Sunday mornings during the
Many of ESPN's documentary programs (such as _
30 for 30 _ and _Nine
for IX _) are produced by
ESPN Films , a film division created in
March 2008 as a restructuring of
ESPN Original Entertainment, a
programming division that was originally formed in 2001. 30 for 30
started airing in 2009 and continues airing to this day. Each episode
is through the eyes of a well known filmmaker and has featured some of
the biggest directors in Hollywood. The _30 for 30_ film _O.J.: Made
in America _ won the
Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in
2017 , the first such Oscar for ESPN.
Since September 2006,
ESPN has been integrated with the sports
division of sister broadcast network ABC , with sports events
televised on that network airing under the banner
ESPN on ABC ; much
of ABC's sports coverage since the rebranding has become increasingly
limited to secondary coverage of sporting events whose broadcast
rights are held by
ESPN (such as
The Open Championship ,
X Games and its related qualifying events) as well as a
limited array of event coverage not broadcast on
ESPN (most notably,
NBA Finals ).
John Skipper – President, ESPN, Inc.
* Sean Bratches – Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing
* Christine Driessen – Executive Vice President and Chief
* Ed Durso – Executive Vice President, Administration
* Aaron LaBerge – Executive Vice President and Chief Technology
Norby Williamson – Executive Vice President, Programming
* Russell Wolff – Executive Vice President and Managing Director,
ESPN2 launched on October 1, 1993, it carried a broad mix of event
coverage from conventional sports (such as auto racing, college
basketball and NHL hockey) to extreme sports (such as
skateboarding and motocross ). The "
ESPN BottomLine ," a ticker
displaying sports news and scores during all programming that is now
used by all of ESPN's networks, originated on
ESPN2 in 1995. In the
ESPN2 was gradually reformatted to serve as a secondary
outlet for ESPN's mainstream sports programming.
ESPN CLASSIC is a digital cable and satellite television network that
launched in 1995 as Classic
Sports Network, founded by
Brian Bedol and
ESPN Inc. purchased Classic
Sports Network in 1997
for $175 million, rebranding the channel to its current name the
following year. The channel broadcasts notable archived sporting
events (originally including events from past decades, but now
focusing mainly on events from the 1990s and later), sports
documentaries and sports-themed movies.
ESPNEWS is a digital cable and satellite television network that was
launched on November 1, 1996, originally focusing solely on sports
news, highlights and press conferences . Since August 2010, the
network has gradually incorporated encores of ESPN's various sports
debate and entertainment shows and video simulcasts of
shows, in addition to sports news programming (which since the 2013
cancellation of _Highlight Express_, consists mainly of additional
runs of _SportsCenter_);
ESPNews also serves as an overflow feed due
to programming conflicts caused by sporting events on the other ESPN
ESPN+ is a digital cable and satellite television network that
launched in 2002; this signal is seen in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru,
Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and from November 21,
2013, also in Venezuela.
ESPN+ signal displays events in these sports:
Football, Tennis, Rugby, Cycling, Baseball, Horse Riding, Hockey and
sports programs about: Football, Tennis, Rugby, Polo, Hockey, Motor,
etc. It is divided into two signals: Atlantic and Pacific.
ESPN DEPORTES (Spanish pronunciation: , "
ESPN Sports") is a digital
cable and satellite television network that was originally launched in
July 2001 to provide
Spanish language simulcasts of certain Major
League Baseball telecasts from ESPN. It became a 24-hour sports
channel in January 2004.
ESPNU is a digital cable and satellite television network that
launched on March 4, 2005, and focuses on college athletics including
basketball, football, baseball college swimming, and hockey .
The LONGHORN NETWORK is a digital cable and satellite television
network that was launched on August 26, 2011, focusing on events from
Texas Longhorns varsity sports teams of the University of Texas at
Austin . It features events from the 20 sports sanctioned by the
Texas Longhorns athletics department, along with original programming
(including historical, academic and cultural content).
SEC NETWORK is a digital cable and satellite television network that
launched on August 14, 2014, focusing on the coverage of sporting
events sanctioned by the
Southeastern Conference . Created as a result
of a 20-year broadcast partnership between the two entities, the
network is a joint venture between the conference and
ESPN Inc. (which
operates the network).
ESPN launched its high definition simulcast feed, originally branded
as ESPNHD, on March 20, 2001. All studio shows based in Bristol and at
L.A. Live, along with most live event telecasts on ESPN, are broadcast
in high definition.
ESPN is one of the few television networks with an
all-digital infrastructure. Archived non-HD programming is presented
in 4:3 standard definition with stylized pillarboxing . _Pardon the
Interruption_ and _Around the Horn_ began airing in HD on September
27, 2010, with the relocation of the production of both shows into the
facility housing the
Washington, D.C. bureau for
ABC News .
ESPN, as with Disney/ABC's other broadcast and cable networks,
transmits HD programming in the
720p resolution format; this is due to
the fact that ABC executives had proposed a progressive scan signal
that resolves fluid and high-speed motion in sports better,
particularly during slow-motion replays. In 2011, ESPNHD began to
downplay its distinct promotional logo in preparation for the
conversion of its standard definition feed from a 4:3 full-screen to a
letterboxed format (via the application of the AFD #10 display flag),
which occurred on June 1 of that year.
WatchESPN is a website for desktop computers , as well as an
application for smartphones and tablet computers that allows
subscribers of participating cable and satellite providers to watch
live streams of programming from
ESPN and its sister networks (with
the exception of
ESPN Classic), including most sporting events, on
computers, mobile devices,
Apple TV ,
Xbox Live via their TV
Everywhere login provided by their cable provider. The service
originally launched on October 25, 2010 as
ESPN Networks, a streaming
service which provided a live stream of
ESPN exclusive to Time Warner
ESPN3 , an online streaming service providing live
streams and replays of global sports events that launched in 2005 as a
separate website, was incorporated into the
WatchESPN platform on
August 31, 2011.
ESPN Regional Television (formerly branded as
ESPN Plus) is the
network's syndication arm, which produces collegiate sporting events
for broadcast television stations throughout the United States
(primarily those affiliated with networks such as
The CW and
MyNetworkTV or independent stations ).
ESPN Plus syndicates college
football and basketball games from the
American Athletic Conference ,
Big 12 Conference ,
Mid-American Conference , Metro Atlantic Athletic
Sun Belt Conference and the
Western Athletic Conference .
ESPN owns and operates regional channels in
Brazil , and
Latin America . In Canada,
ESPN is a minority owner of The Sports
Network (TSN) and the French-language
Réseau des sports (RDS). ESPN
also has a minority stake in J
Japan . In the United
BT Group operates the channel
BT Sport ESPN .
IN POPULAR CULTURE
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ESPN has been 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 the 2004 comedy
_DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story _, which gently lampoons the
channel's multiple outlets by referencing the fictional ESPN8, "The
Ocho", a reference to a nickname formerly used by ESPN2, "the Deuce".
Many jokes have been made by comedians about fake obscure sports that
are shown on ESPN.
Dennis Miller mentioned watching "sumo rodeo ",
George Carlin stated that
ESPN showed "Australian dick wrestling
". One of several _
Saturday Night Live _ sketches poking fun at the
network features a fictional
ESPN2 program called _Scottish Soccer
Hooligan Weekly_, which includes a fake advertisement for "Senior
Women's Beach Lacrosse". _SNL_ also parodies
ESPN Classic with fake
archived obscure women's sports event telecasts from the 1980s (such
as bowling, weightlifting and curling ), with announcers who know
nothing about the sport, and instead focus on the sponsors, which were
always for feminine hygiene products. In the early years of ESPN,
Late Night with David Letterman _ even featured a "Top Ten List"
segment poking fun at some of the obscure sports seen on
ESPN at the
time. One of the more memorable sports on the list was "Amish Rake
Fighting". A recurring skit on _
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon _ named
Sports Freak-Out! _ is a parody of _SportsCenter_'s overexcited
An occasional joke used in comedic television and film involves
people getting ESP (the common abbreviation for extrasensory
perception , that was coincidentally the working abbreviation for the
channel prior to its launch) confused with ESPN, often including
someone saying a sentence along the lines of "I know these kinds of
things, I've got ESPN".
Sports video games releases by Electronic Arts
in the early 1990s featured a logo for a fictional sports network,
Sports Network); this was soon changed to EA
ESPN requested that the company stop using the similar
name. There are also at least 22 children that are named after the
Criticism of ESPN
Throughout its history,
ESPN has received accusations of biased
coverage, conflicts of interest, and controversies with individual
broadcasters and analysts.
ESPN has been criticized for focusing too
much on men's college and professional sports, and very little on
women's sports or extreme sports, or e-sports. Other criticism has
focused on ethnicity in ESPN's varying mediated forms, as well as
carriage fees and issues regarding the exportation of
Some critics argue that ESPN's success is their ability to provide
other enterprise and investigative sports news while competing with
other hard sports-news-producing outlets such as Yahoo!
Sports and Fox
Sports . Some scholars have challenged ESPN's journalistic integrity
calling for an expanded standard of professionalism to prevent biased
coverage and conflicts of interest. .
List of ESPN personalities
List of past ESPN personalities
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each cable network is in as of February 2015". _
TV by the Numbers _.
Zap2it. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
ESPN Inc Encyclopædia Britannica.
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