ESPN (originally an initialism for Entertainment and Sports
Programming Network) is a U.S.-based global cable and satellite sports
television channel owned by
ESPN Inc., a joint venture owned by The
Walt Disney Company (80%) and
Hearst Communications (20%). The company
was founded in 1979 by
Bill Rasmussen along with his son Scott
Rasmussen and Ed Egan.
ESPN broadcasts primarily from studio facilities located in Bristol,
Connecticut. The network also operates offices in Miami, New York
City, Seattle, Charlotte, and Los Angeles.
James Pitaro currently
serves as chairman of ESPN, a position he has held since March 5, 2018
due to the resignation of
John Skipper on December 18, 2017 (who
George Bodenheimer as president in 2012). While
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
ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut
As of January 2016[update],
ESPN is available to approximately
91,405,000 paid television households (78.527% 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 Australia,
Latin America and the United Kingdom, and owning a 20%
interest in The
Sports Network (TSN) as well as its five sister
networks in Canada.
In 2011, ESPN's history and rise was chronicled in Those Guys Have All
the Fun, a nonfiction book written by James Andrew Miller and Tom
Shales and published by Little, Brown and Company.
4 Related channels
4.6 Longhorn Network
4.7 SEC Network
4.8 Other services
5 International channels
6 In popular culture
8 See also
11 External links
Main article: 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
by 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, SportsCenter.
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 career of 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
(to USA Network) and
NCAA Division I college football
NCAA Division I college football (to TBS). For
years, the NFL,
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
Mike and Mike in the Morning
Mike and Mike in the Morning and The Herd) as well as audio
play-by-play of sporting events (including some simulcasted with the
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
World Series of Poker as
its headliners) as well as serving as an overflow channel for
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 subscribers.
Ownership of ABC, and in effect control of ESPN, was acquired by
Capital Cities Communications
Capital Cities Communications in 1985. ESPN's parent company
renamed themselves as Capital Cities/ABC Inc. Capital Cities/ABC Inc.
was then acquired by
The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company in 1996 and was
re-branded as Disney-ABC Television Group.
On April 26, 2017, approximately 100
ESPN employees were notified that
their positions with the sports network had been terminated, among
Trent Dilfer and Danny Kanell, and noted
NFL beat reporter
Ed Werder and Major League Baseball
expert Jayson Stark. The layoffs came as
ESPN continued to shed
viewers, more than 10 million over a period of several years, while
paying big money for the broadcast rights to such properties as the
NBA and College Football Playoff. Further cost-cutting
measures taken include moving the studio operations of
Bristol from Charlotte, North Carolina, reducing its longtime MLB
Baseball Tonight to Sundays as a lead-in to the primetime
game and adding the MLB Network-produced
Intentional Talk to ESPN2's
See also: List of programs broadcast by ESPN, List of
properties, and List of television films produced for ESPN
Alongside its live sports broadcasts,
ESPN also airs a variety of
sports highlight, talk, and documentary-styled shows. These include:
Around the Horn
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)
College GameDay (basketball) – Weekly college basketball show airing
Saturday Primetime game of the week site
College GameDay (football)
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 Kellerman and
Molly Qerim (moved from
ESPN2 on January 3, 2017)
Get Up! – A morning show, focusing on the previous night's game
results and the burning sports issues of the day
Golic and Wingo
Golic and Wingo – A simulcast of the
ESPN Radio morning show,
focusing on current sports stories
Monday Night Countdown
Monday Night Countdown – Weekly recap show aired on Monday evenings
NFL season, also serves as the pre-game show for Monday
Outside the Lines
Outside the Lines –
Talk and debate show that examines critical
sports issues on and off the field of play
Pardon the Interruption
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
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
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
30 for 30 film O.J.: Made in America
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
NBA games, and the
X Games and its
related qualifying events) as well as a limited array of event
coverage not broadcast on
ESPN (most notably, the
James Pitaro – President of ESPN, Co-chair, Disney Media Networks
Sean Bratches – Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Christine Driessen – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial
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, ESPN
Main article: ESPN2
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 BMX,
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 late 1990s,
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.
Main article: ESPNews
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
ESPN Radio shows, in
addition to sports news programming (which since the 2013 cancellation
of Highlight Express, consists mainly of additional runs of
ESPNews also serves as an overflow feed due to
programming conflicts caused by sporting events on the other ESPN
ESPN Deportes (Spanish pronunciation: [i.es.piˈen deˈportes],
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
Major League Baseball telecasts from ESPN. It
became a 24-hour sports channel in January 2004.
Main article: ESPNU
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.
Main article: Longhorn Network
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).
Main article: SEC Network
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
Around the Horn
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. The network's Digital
Center itself natively holds 2160p UHD/4K operations and
equipment. 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
Cable subscribers. 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
Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference and the Western Athletic
ESPN on Snapchat
ESPN distributes various content on
Snapchat Discover, including a
Snapchat-only version of SportsCenter.
ESPN MVP (initially known as Mobile ESPN) was a failed attempt in the
2000s and 2010s to have exclusive mobile content, first as a feature
phone and later as part of a smartphone package.
ESPN owns and operates regional channels in Australia, Brazil, and
Latin America. In Canada,
ESPN is a minority owner of The Sports
Network (TSN) and the French-language
Réseau des sports
Réseau des sports (RDS). ESPN
also has a minority stake in J
Sports in Japan. In the United Kingdom,
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.
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
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
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon named
is a parody of SportsCenter's overexcited anchors.
The 2004 comedy film DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story gently lampoons
the channel's multiple outlets by referencing the fictional ESPN8,
"The Ocho", a reference to a nickname formerly used by ESPN2, "the
ESPNU was rebranded
ESPN The Ocho on August 8, 2017, airing
obscure competitions such as disc golf, kabaddi, arm wrestling and
Japanese videogame publisher Konami launched the
ESPN MLS GameNight
ESPN MLS ExtraTime 2002 soccer games. In the early 1990s,
Electronic Arts games featured a logo for a fictional sports TV
network, EASN (
Sports Network); this was soon changed
ESPN requested that the company stop using the
similar name. In 2005, both companies signed a 15-year partnership,
ESPN brand and personalities are integrated into EA Sports
Grid 2 also features prominent
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." There are also at least 22 children that are named after the
On November 19, 2017, in Season 29, Episode 7 of The Simpsons,
entitled "Singin' In The Lane", the bowling tournament is being
streamed on ESPN8, which is a parody of
ESPN the Ocho.
Main article: Criticism of ESPN
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. Other criticism has focused on ethnicity in ESPN's varying
mediated forms, as well as carriage fees and issues regarding the
ESPN content. 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
List of past
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ACC Network Extra
ESPN on ABC
UK and Ireland
BT Sport ESPN
ESPN Classic Canada
ESPN The Magazine
ESPN Deportes La Revista
Arena Football League
Arena Football League (minority stake, 2006–2009)
Sports (equity stake, 1994–2013)
ESPN 3D (2010–2013)
ESPN America (2002–2013)
ESPN Classic (UK) (2006–2013)
ESPN MVP (2005–2006)
ESPN GamePlan (1992–2015)
ESPN Full Court
ESPN Full Court (2007–2015)
ESPN PPV (1999–2015)
ESPN HS (1997–2012)
Sports broadcasting rights
ESPN College Football
High School Showcase
ESPN Major League Baseball
ESPN College Basketball
MLS Soccer Sunday
Monday Night Football
CFL on TSN
NBA on ESPN
NBA on ESPN
ESPN sports properties
Jayski's Silly Season Site
ESPN Radio personalities
This is SportsCenter
ESPN Wide World of
Owners: Disney Media Networks 80%
Hearst Corporation 20%
The Courier (Conroe, Texas)
Huron Daily Tribune
Laredo Morning Times
Manistee News Advocate
The Middletown Press
Midland Daily News
New Haven Register
Plainview Daily Herald
The Register Citizen
San Antonio Express-News
San Francisco Chronicle
Examiner Newspapers (Bellaire, Memorial, River Oaks, West University)
The Lake Houston Observer
The Potpourri (Magnolia and Tomball)
Sugar Land Sun
The Villager (The Woodlands, Texas)
La Voz de Houston
Car and Driver
Food Network Magazine
harper by Harper's Bazaar
Marie Claire (US)
O, The Oprah Magazine
Road & Track
Town & Country
Hearst Magazines Digital Media
All About Soap
KHBS / KHOG
KHBS-DT2 / KHOG-DT2
WPTZ / WNNE
A&E Networks (50%)
Cosmopolitan Television (part owner)
ESPN Inc. (20%)
King Features Syndicate
Light TV (part owner)
Litton Entertainment (major)
NorthSouth Productions (50%)
Reed Brennan Media Associates
Texture (part owner)
Verizon Hearst Media Partners (50%)
Fitch Ratings (80%)
Hearst Service Center
Sports television in the United States
ESPN on ABC
Telemundo Deportes (Telemundo/Universo)
Sports en Español
Univision Deportes Network
Big Ten Network
Fox College Sports
ESPN College Extra
ESPN Goal Line & Bases LoadedP
Fox Soccer PlusP
MLB Extra InningsO
MLB Strike ZoneP
MLS Direct KickO
NBA League PassO
NFL Sunday TicketO
NHL Center IceO
The Cowboy Channel
Frost Great Outdoors
World Fishing Network
ACC Network (Raycom Sports)
UFC Fight Pass
ACC Network Extra)
Video on demand
The Ski Channel
Regional sports television networks in the United States
Sports Northwest (part-ownership)
Florida / Sun
Ohio / SportsTime Ohio
Southeast / South
West / Prime Ticket
Sports Regional Networks
SportsNet New York
SportsNet New York (part ownership)
Buckeye Cable Sports
SWX Right Now
Defunct television sports networks in the United States
Big 12 Network
NASCAR Hot Pass
One World Sports
ESPN Full Court
Mega March Madness
O. Out-of-market sports packages