ROONE PINCKNEY ARLEDGE, JR. (July 8, 1931 – December 5, 2002) was
an American sports and news broadcasting executive who was president
ABC Sports from 1968 until 1986 and
ABC News from 1977 until 1998,
and a key part of the company's rise to competition with the two other
main television networks,
* 1 Early life
* 2 Career
* 2.1 Assistant Producer * 2.2 Flying high * 2.3 ABC News
* 3 Honors * 4 Sources * 5 References * 6 External links
Arledge was born in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, the son of
Gertrude (Stritmater) and Roone Pinckney Arledge, an attorney.
Wellington C. Mepham High School on
Upon graduation, he decided that sportswriting was what he wanted to
do in life, and applied to
After receiving a bachelor's degree in 1952, Arledge enrolled in
graduate studies at Columbia's School of International Public Affairs.
Restless with graduate studies, he went looking for a job where he
could use his college degree and obtained an entry-level job at the
DuMont Television Network
Contacts he made at DuMont paid off with a stage manager's job at
New York City
Even with that success, Arledge wanted to tinker with programming
ideas. Using the avante-garde magazine _
Scherick had joined the fledgling ABC television network when he
persuaded it to purchase Sports Programs, Inc. Scherick had formed
this company after leaving
While Scherick wasn't interested in "For Men Only," he recognized the talent Arledge had. Arledge realized ABC was the organization he was looking to join. The lack of a formal organization would offer him the opportunity to claim real power when the network matured. So, he signed on with Scherick as an assistant producer.
Several months before ABC began broadcasting NCAA college football games, Arledge sent Scherick a remarkable memo, filled with youthful exuberance, and television production concepts which sports broadcasts have adhered to since. Previously, network sporting broadcasts had consisted of simple set-ups and focused on the game itself. The genius of Arledge in this memo was not that he offered another way to broadcast the game to the sports fan. The genius was to recognize television had to take the sports fan to the game. In addition, Arledge was intelligent enough to realize that the broadcasts needed to attract, and hold the attention of women viewers. At age 29 on September 17, 1960 he put his vision into reality with ABC's first NCAA college football broadcast from Birmingham, Alabama, between Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs won by Alabama, 21–6. That same year, ABC began broadcasting games in the fledgling American Football League and used the same innovative techniques in their broadcasts. Sports broadcasting has not been the same since.
Despite the production values he brought to NCAA college football, Scherick wanted low-budget (as in inexpensive broadcasting rights) sports programming that could attract and retain an audience. He hit upon the idea of broadcasting track and field events sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union . While Americans were not exactly fans of track and field events, Scherick figured Americans understood games.
So in January 1961, Scherick called Arledge into his office, and asked him to attend the annual AAU board of governors meeting. While he was shaking hands, Scherick said, if the mood seemed right, might he cut a deal to broadcast AAU events on ABC? It seemed a tall assignment, but as Scherick said years later, "Roone was a gentile and I was not." Arledge came back with a deal for ABC to broadcast all AAU events for $50,000 a year.
Next, Scherick and Arledge divided up their NCAA college football sponsor list. They then telephoned their sponsors and said in so many words, "Advertise on our new sports show coming up in April, or forget about buying commercials on NCAA college football this fall." The two persuaded enough sponsors to advertise, though it took them to the last day of a deadline imposed by ABC programming to do it.
_Wide World of Sports _ suited Scherick's plans exactly. By
exploiting the speed of jet transportation and flexibility of
videotape, Scherick was able to undercut
Arledge, his colleague
Chuck Howard , and
Jim McKay (who left
But more importantly from Arledge's perspective, _Wide World of Sports_ allowed him to demonstrate his ability as an administrator as well as producer. Arledge did not gain a formal title as president of ABC Sports until 1968, even though Scherick left his position to assume a position of vice president for programming at ABC in 1964.
Arledge personally produced all ten ABC Olympic broadcasts, created the primetime _ Monday Night Football _ and coined ABC's famous "Thrill of victory, agony of defeat" tagline — although ABC insiders of that era attribute the authorship to legendary sports broadcaster Jim McKay .
In 1977, ABC made Arledge president of the then low-rated network news division, all while Arledge retained control of the Sports Division. ABC News had at the time been in the middle of blunders such as the disastrous pairing of Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner at the desk of the network's evening news. The previous year, ABC had lured Walters away from NBC's _Today Show _ for $ 1,000,000.
Previous to that time, the only news experience Arledge had was providing ABC's coverage of the tragedies during the \'72 Olympics in Munich . Other than that, he had no other major experience in news.
Arledge's first major creation for ABC was _20/20 _, which premiered in June 1978. The first iteration of this program fared badly, and resulted in the firing of the original hosts, with Hugh Downs chosen as the new anchor beginning the second week of the program.
Shortly thereafter, Arledge reformatted the network's evening newscast with many of the splashy graphics he had developed at _Wide World of Sports _, and created _World News Tonight _. The program was unique not only because it was anchored by three newsmen, but because each of them were located in separate cities. The lead anchor became Frank Reynolds , who was based in Washington, with Max Robinson based out of Chicago, and Peter Jennings reporting from London. The program expanded to weekends in 1979. In 1983, Reynolds died of bone cancer , and Robinson departed the network, and ABC made Jennings the sole anchor of _World News Tonight_ on September 5, 1983. Jennings anchored the broadcast until April 5, 2005, when he announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer , to which Jennings would succumb on August 7, 2005.
In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran was taken over by Iranian
students, creating the
Iranian Hostage Crisis
In 1981, Arledge brought David Brinkley to ABC from NBC, and created the Sunday-morning affairs program _This Week _ for Brinkley. Brinkley would retire from the program in 1996.
In 1986, Arledge stepped down as president of ABC Sports. That same year, ABC's _World News Tonight_ began a ten-year domination of the network news ratings.
In 1998, Arledge retired from ABC News.
His autobiography, _Roone: A Memoir_, was published posthumously in 2003.
Arledge was selected by _Life_ magazine as one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century". _ Sports Illustrated _ ranked him number three in a list of "the 40 individuals who have most significantly altered or elevated the world of sports in the last four decades".
The NATPE "Man of the Year" Iris Award was presented to him in 1971.
He was the winner of 37 Emmy Awards and in 1990 was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame . In 2001, he was given the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame . In 2007, The Walt Disney Company posthumously named Arledge a Disney Legend for his contributions to ABC News and ABC Sports (now ESPN on ABC), both (along with the ABC Network) now owned by Disney.
In 1997, Arledge won the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism .
* Arledge, Roone (2003). _Roone_. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers Inc.