owner=The Walt Disney Company (80%)
Hearst Corporation (20%)
logofile=ESPN wordmark.svg
logoalt|ESPN logo since 1985
launch=September 7, 1979
headquarters=Bristol, Connecticut
web= []
former names=Entertainment and Sports Programming Network
ESP (never used on air)
picture format=480i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV)
slogan=The Worldwide Leader in Sports
sat serv 1=DirecTV
sat chan 1=206 (SD & HD)
73 (HD)
sat serv 2=Dish Network
sat chan 2=140 (SD)
9424 (HD)
cable serv 1=Available on most cable systems
cable chan 1=Check local listings for channels
key_people=George Bodenheimer, President
founder=Scott Rasmussen and Bill Rasmussen

ESPN, originally an acronym for "Entertainment and Sports Programming Network", is an American cable television network dedicated to broadcasting and producing sports-related programming 24 hours a day. It was founded by Scott Rasmussen and his father Bill Rasmussen and launched on September 7, 1979, under the direction of Chet Simmons, who was the network's first President and CEO (and later became the United States Football League's first commissioner). Getty Oil Company provided the funding to begin the new venture. George Bodenheimer is ESPN's current president, a position he has held since November 19, 1998; since March 3, 2003, he has been the head of ABC Sports as well, which has since been rebranded as ESPN on ABC (though ABC Sports still legally has a separate existence). ESPN's signature telecast, "SportsCenter", debuted with the network and aired its 30,000th episode on February 11, 2007. ESPN broadcasts primarily out of its studios in Bristol, Connecticut; it also operates offices out of New York City, New York; Seattle, Washington; Charlotte, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California; the Los Angeles office is scheduled to open at L.A. Live in 2009. The name of the sport company was lengthened to "ESPN Inc." in February 1985.

ESPN considers itself "The Worldwide Leader in Sports", a slogan that appears on nearly all company media but whose origin is unknown.

Most programming on ESPN and its affiliated networks is composed of live or tape-delayed sporting events and sports-related news programming (such as 'SportsCenter') with the remainder filled by sports-related talk shows (such as 'Around the Horn', 'Jim Rome is Burning','Outside The Lines', and 'PTI') and sports-related documentaries.


Early years

ESPN was originally thought up by a man named Bill Rasmussen, a television sports reporter for WWLP, the NBC affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bill was hoping to create the first national sports network but Patrick was eventually swept aside after providing much of the original ideas and content for the network. In the mid-1970s, Rasmussen worked for the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers, selling commercial time for their broadcasts. His son Scott, a former high school goaltender, was the team's public-address announcer. Both were fired in 1977 and Rasmussen sought a new business venture. His original idea was a cable television network (then a fairly new medium) that focused on covering sports events in the state of Connecticut (for example, the Hartford Whalers and the Connecticut Huskies). When Rasmussen was told that buying a continuous 24-hour satellite feed was less expensive than buying several blocks of only a few hours a night, he expanded to a 24-hour nationwide network. The channel's original name was ESP, for Entertainment and Sports Programming, but it was changed prior to launch. ["ESPN: An Uncensored History", by Michael Freeman. Published in 2000]

ESPN started with the debut of "SportsCenter" hosted by Lee Leonard and George Grande on September 7, 1979. Afterwards was a pro slow pitch softball game. The first score on "SportsCenter" was from women's tennis.

To help fill 24 hours a day of air time, ESPN aired a wide variety of sports events that broadcast networks did not show on weekends, including Australian Rules Football, Davis Cup tennis, professional wrestling, boxing, and additional college football and basketball games. The U.S. Olympic Festival, the now-defunct competition that was organized as a training tool by the United States Olympic Committee, was also an ESPN staple during this time.

Professional sports arrive

ESPN (along with the USA Network) was among the earliest cable-based broadcast partners for the National Basketball Association (NBA). Lasting from 1982-84, the network's relationship with the association marked its initial foray into the American professional sports sector. After an eighteen-year hiatus, ESPN (by then, under the auspices of the ABC network), secured a $2.4 billion/six-year broadcast contract with the NBA, thereby revitalizing its historic compact with U.S. professional basketball.

In 1983, The United States Football League (USFL) made its debut on ESPN and ABC. The league (which lasted for three seasons) enjoyed ephemeral success, some portion of which was a byproduct of the exposure afforded through ESPN's coverage.

In 1987, ESPN gained partial rights to the National Football League. The league agreed to the deal as long as ESPN agreed to simulcast the games on local television stations in the participating markets. "ESPN Sunday Night Football" would last for 19 years and symbolize ESPN's rise from novelty network to American pop culture institution. In the 2006 NFL season ABC's "Monday Night Football", long considered the showcase game of the NFL's week, began to be broadcast on ESPN. This was done to increase viewership of the Sunday night game and make it the "showcase" game.

In 1990, ESPN added Major League Baseball to its lineup with a $400 million contract. [ESPN, Encyclopedia Britannica,] MLB games are still on ESPN today and are scheduled to continue through 2011. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were named as the broadcasters, and that team also continues to this day.

ESPN at one time has broadcast each of the four major professional sports leagues in North America until deciding not to renew the deal with the National Hockey League after the 2004-2005 lockout, citing ratings for original programming were comparable to those of NHL broadcasts.cite news
title=ESPN decides not to match Comcast's offer

ESPN broadcasts 65 sports, 24 hours a day in 14 languages in more than 150 countries. [ESPN, Encyclopedia Britannica,]


The 1990s and early 2000s saw considerable growth within the company. In 1993, ESPN2 was founded, with Keith Olbermann and Suzy Kolber launching the network with SportsNite. Three years later, ESPNEWS was born, with Mike Tirico as the first anchor. In 1997, ESPN purchased Classic Sports Network and renamed it ESPN Classic. The latest ESPN network in the U.S., ESPNU, began on March 4, 2005.

ESPN International began in the early 1990s to take advantage of the growing satellite markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Canada, ESPN, Inc. purchased a minority share of TSN and RDS (in fact, the current corporate logo of both looks similar to that of ESPN). In 2004, ESPN finally entered the European market by launching a version of ESPN Classic, and in December 2006, it agreed to purchase North American Sports Network. "SportsCenter"'s primary three broadcasts each day are at 1 a.m. ET (which re-airs usually until 9 AM ET), 6 p.m. ET, and 11 p.m. ET.

In 1994, ESPN set the standard for understanding the role of sports in America with the creation of The ESPN Sports Poll by Dr. Richard Luker. The Sports Poll was the first ongoing national daily study of sports fan activities and interests in the United States. "Sporting News" acknowledged the accomplishments of The ESPN Sports Poll and Dr. Luker in 1996. [ "The Sporting News" 12/30/96 ]

With the increasing costs of live sports entertainment, such as the U.S.$8.8 billion costs for NFL football broadcasts rights for eight years, "scripted entertainment has become a luxury item for ESPN," said David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. ["ESPN calls time out on scripted fare", Variety, vol. 407, No. 1, May 21-27, 2007, p. 22 ]

From 1996 onward, ESPN was closely integrated with ABC Sports. That year, Steve Bornstein, president of ESPN since 1990, was made president of ABC Sports as well. This integration culminated in the 2006 decision to merge ABC Sports' operations with ESPN. As a result, all of ABC's sports programming now uses ESPN on ABC. However, ABC Sports is still legally separate from ESPN (see below).

ESPN is currently building a full-fledged broadcast production facility in downtown Los Angeles, as a part of the L.A. Live complex across from the Staples Center. The five-story facility will house an ESPN Zone restaurant on the first two floors and two television production studios with digital control rooms on upper floors. It is scheduled to open in spring 2009. One of the studios will host late-night editions of "SportsCenter".Greg Johnson, [,1,2961654.story ESPN is on schedule to land in L.A. in 2009] , "Los Angeles Times", December 18, 2007.]

In 2007, ESPN signed an agreement with the Arena Football League to broadcast at least one game every weekend, usually on Monday nights.

As of January 15, 2008, ESPN has signed a multi-million dollar contract with professional gaming circuit Major League Gaming or MLG for short. Although some have argued that professional gaming is not a physical sport, ESPN has gone ahead with this collaboration.


Ownership history

As mentioned, William Rasmussen founded the network. Just before ESPN launched, Getty Oil Company (later purchased by Texaco, which in turn was acquired by Chevron) agreed to buy a majority stake in the network.

In 1984, ABC made a deal with Getty Oil to acquire ESPN. ABC retained an 80% share, and sold 20% to Nabisco. The Nabisco shares were later sold to Hearst Corporation, which still holds a 20% stake today. In 1986, ABC was purchased for $3.5 billion by Capital Cities Communications. In 1995, The Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion and picked up an 80% stake in ESPN at that time. According to an analysis published by "Barron's" magazine in February 2008, ESPN "is probably worth more than 40% of Disney's entire value... based on prevailing cash-flow multiples in the industry."

Although ESPN has been operated as a Disney subsidiary since 1996, it is still technically a joint venture between Disney and Hearst.


ESPNHD, launched March 30, 2003 is a high-definition simulcast of the cable television network ESPN, both owned by Disney that broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ESPNHD along with sister network ABCHD use the 720p HD line standard because the ABC executives proposed a progressive 'p' signal resolves fluid and high speed motion in sports better, particularly during slow motion replays. [ [ chosen_direction_covers.qxd ] ]

All Bristol studio shows and most live events on ESPN are produced high definition. ESPN is one of the few networks with an all-digital infrastructure. Shows that are recorded elsewhere − such as "Jim Rome Is Burning" (Los Angeles); "Pardon the Interruption" and "Around the Horn" (Washington, D.C.) are presented in a standard definition, 4:3 format with stylized pillar boxes. ESPN, however maintains a policy that any video that originates in high definition must remain in HD when aired on ESPNHD. Unlike all other sports programming networks, ESPN charges for its HD channel.

Recently the network has come under considerable scrutiny from industry technicians and early adopters of HD due to a recent noticeable degradation in picture quality, specifically during live events. It is unclear whether this is the result of over-compression, rate shaping or bit starving from cable and satellite providers or something amiss in the ESPN distribution chain. [ [ What's Up With ESPN HD? ] ]


*George Bodenheimer: President, ESPN, Inc. [ cite web | title=The Walt Disney Company - George W. Bodenheimer Executive Biography | url= | publisher=The Walt Disney Company | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*Sean Bratches: Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing [ cite web | title= SEAN R. H. BRATCHES Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing | url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*Christine Driessen: Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer [ cite web | title=CHRISTINE F. DRIESSEN Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer |url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*Edwin Durso: Executive Vice President, Administration [ cite web | title=EDWIN M. DURSO Executive Vice President, Administration |url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*Chuck Pagano: Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer [cite web | title=CHUCK PAGANO Executive Vice President, Technology | url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*John Skipper: Executive Vice President, Content [cite web | title= JOHN SKIPPER Executive Vice President, Content | url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*Norby Williamson: Executive Vice President, Studio and Remote Production [cite web | title= NORBY WILLIAMSON Executive Vice President, Studio and Remote Production | url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]
*Russell Wolff: Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International [cite web | title= RUSSELL WOLFF Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International | url= | work=ESPN | accessdate=2007-04-07 ]

Advertising on ESPN

Advertising on ESPN is sold out for months in advance. Major advertisers such as Apple Inc., FedEx, and United Postal Service are continually buying advertisement to reach the 25-54 year old male audience. ESPN's ad revenue averages $441.8 million with an ad rate of $9,446 per 30 second slot. [ESPN, Encyclopedia Britannica,]

ESPN significant programming rights

ESPN and its family of networks (ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Plus and to a lesser extent ESPN Classic) have (or have had) rights to the following sports and events:

*1987–1989 (Sunday Night; exclusive cable; second half of season only)
*1990–1997 (Sunday Night; second half of season only; TNT carried first half)
*1998–2005 (Sunday Night; exclusive cable; entire season, selected Thursday & Saturday night games)
**2003–2005 (Pro Bowl, acquired rights from ABC)
*2006–2013 ("Monday Night Football")

*FIFA World Cup: 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014
*FIFA U-17 World Cup: 2007
*FIFA U-20 World Cup: 2007

*UEFA Champions League: 1994-2009
*UEFA European Football Championship: 2008

ESPN Major League Baseball

ESPN Major League Soccer
Major Indoor Soccer League
*2005 & 2006 (championship games only)The NBA on ESPN
The Arena Football League on ESPN

Little League World Series
*1997 [cite web | title=Little League Chronology | url= | publisher=Little League Online | accessdate=2007-04-07 ESPN2 broadcasts started in 1997.] -2014

WNBA on ESPN (Originally the WNBA on ESPN2)

PGA Tour on ESPN
*1980(?)–2006 (Contracts with individual tournaments)
*ESPN or ABC continues to broadcast early round or weekend coverage from The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and Ryder Cup

PBA Tour presented by Denny's on ESPN

*Selected majors through deals with their respective sanctioning bodies

*1981–2000 (Contracts with individual races)
*2007–2014 (Contract with NASCAR)


*1980(?)–2000 (Contracts with individual races)
*2001-2013 (Contract with NHRA)

Champ Car World Series on ESPN
*2007 (series merged with IRL, beginning with the 2008 season)

ESPN National Hockey Night
*1985–1988 (National television deal, agreements with individual clubs as early as 1979)

ESPN College Football
*Bowl Games: 1982-present (contracts with individual bowl games; the first live college football game telecast on ESPN was the 1982 Independence Bowl)
*ACC: 1998-2010
*Big Ten Conference: 1979-2013 (originally tape delayed)
*Select Big 12 home games: 2007-?
*Big East: 1991-2013
*C-USA: 1995-2010
*MAC: 2003-2007
*Select Pac 10 Home games: 2007-?
*SEC: until at least 2023 [ [ ESPN scores 15 year SEC rights deal] ]

*Sun Belt: (?)-2007
*WAC: until at least 2017 [ [ ESPN / WAC Ink Seven year Distribution Extension] ]
*NCAA Division I FCS (formerly Division I-AA), Division II, and Division III playoffs (selected games) and championship games.

ESPN College Basketball
*NCAA Tournament: 1980–1990 (Contract with NCAA)
*ACC (some telecasts, including games in the conference tournament, are blacked out in ACC markets):
*Big Ten Conference: 1979-2017
*Big 12: 2008-2016, ESPN Plus (ESPN Plus has exclusive rights to some games in Big 12 markets to protect stations purchasing its syndicated package)
*Big East: 1979-2013, ESPN Plus
*Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest: 2003-2008

ESPN also broadcasts a range of horse racing and tennis events. It may sometimes acquire the rights to programming in other sports which airs only on ESPN 360, usually because another broadcaster holds the TV rights.

ESPN in popular culture

ESPN has become 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 "", which gently lampoons the channel's multiple outlets by referencing the as-yet-nonexistent ESPN8, "The Ocho" [cite web |url=,,613698,00.html |title=Movie Preview: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story |accessdate=2008-07-30 |publisher=Entertainment Weekly |date=2004-04-21] , a reference to a nickname sometimes used for ESPN2, "the Deuce"). In the theatrical hit "Waterboy", Adam Sandler's character Bobby Boucher has his college football accomplishes tracked through several fictional "SportsCenter" new casts including the "Bourbon Bowl." Also, Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons often jokes that he is looking forward to running a future network in any given column; "SportsCenter" anchors appeared as themselves in music videos by Brad Paisley ("I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)") and Hootie and the Blowfish ("Only Wanna Be With You"); and the short-lived 1998 TV series "Sports Night" (by "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin) was based around an ESPN-style network and its titular, "SportsCenter"-analogue flagship sports results program.

Many jokes have been made by comedians about fake obscure sports that are shown on ESPN. Dennis Miller mentioned watching "sumo rodeo," while George Carlin stated that ESPN showed "Australian dick wrestling". One of several "Saturday Night Live" skits poking fun at the network features ESPN2 airing a show called "Scottish Soccer Hooligan Weekly", which includes a fake advertisement for "Senior Women's Beach Lacrosse." In the early years of ESPN, "The Late Show with David Letterman" even featured a "Top Ten List" poking fun at some the obscure sports seen on ESPN at the time. One of the more memorable sports on the list was "Amish Rake Fighting."

There are at least 22 children named after the network. [NBC Sports,, retrieved 4-8-2008] cite news|url=|publisher=ESPN|title=Texas toddler at least third named ESPN|date=2006-06-16] cite web
title=Lampley nearing most-called Olympics
publisher=USA Today
quote=ESPN says it's heard of at least 22 babies named ESPN.

ESPN business ventures


* (1995–present)
* (2002–present)
* (2005–present)
*The ESPN Sports Poll (1994–present)
*ESPN The Magazine (1998–present)
*ESPN Deportes La Revista (2005–present)
*ESPN Original Entertainment (2001–present)
*ESPN Books (2004–present)
*ESPN Zone (1998–present)
*ESPY Awards (1993–present)
*ESPN Integration (2006–present)
*ESPN Online Games (2006–present)
*ESPN Broadband (2002–present)

*Partial interest in the Arena Football League (2006–present, in exchange for television rights).


*Mobile ESPN (2006)

The ESPN family of networks


*ESPN (1979–present)
*ESPN International (1989–present)
*ESPN2 (1993–present)
*ESPN Brasil (1995–present)
*ESPNEWS (1996–present)
*ESPNEWSHD (2008–present)
*ESPN Classic (1997–present)
*ESPN Classic Canada (2001–present)
*ESPNHD (2003–present)
*ESPN Deportes (2004–present)
*ESPNU (2005–present)
*ESPN2HD (2005–present)
*ESPN on ABC (2006–present, replacing ABC Sports)
*ESPN Plus (–present)
*ESPN PPV (–present)
*ESPN Australia HD (2008–present)
*ESPN Star Sports (1995–present)


name = ESPN Now
owner = The Walt Disney Company (80%)
Hearst Corporation (20%)
country = USA
language = American English
website = [ ESPN Now]
picture format = 480i (SDTV)

ESPN Now was a former rolling digital cable barker channel which aired from 2001-2004 and featured a scoring ticker, along with ESPN and promotional advertising. It mainly was used to promote ESPN's college sports pay per view packages to viewers. The channel was eventually discontinued with the rise of video on demand.


*ESPN Motion (2003–present)
*ESPN 360 (2005–present)
* []
* []
* [ in Portuguese for Brazil]
* []
* []
* []


*ESPN Radio (1992–present)
*ESPN Deportes Radio (2005–present)
*Rádio Eldorado ESPN (2007–present)

Network-wide preemption

Several times ESPN programing has been drastically altered because of coverage of world events.

Both ESPN and ESPN2 carried ABC News coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The only original program produced after the preemption was a shortened 6pm edition of "Sportscenter" which focused on covering the cancellations of sporting events in reaction to the terror attacks.

ESPN carried the first day of the 2003 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament due to CBS's coverage of the first few days of the Invasion of Iraq. The games were still produced by CBS. The only identifiers of ESPN was their bottomline graphic.

See also

* ESPN GamePlan
* ESPN Full Court
* List of programs broadcast by ESPN
* List of ESPN personalities
* ESPN Australia
* ESPN Full Circle
*"ESPN Major League Baseball"
*"ESPN2 Major League Soccer"
*"The NBA on ESPN"
* ESPN auto racing broadcast teams
* ESPN College Basketball Broadcast Teams
* ESPN College Football Broadcast Teams
* ESPN MLB Broadcast Teams
* ESPN NBA Broadcast Teams
* ESPN MLS/Soccer Broadcast Teams (FIFA World Cup Included)
* List of assets owned by Disney
* List of assets owned by Hearst Corporation
* Dish Network Channel Grid
* List of DirecTV channels
* Wieden+Kennedy

External links

* [] Official Site
* [] Official Mobile Site
* [ ESPN Video Archive] Official ESPN Video Archive
* [ ESPN Argentina]
* [ ESPN Brasil]
* [ ESPN STAR Sports (Asia)]
* [ ESPN Fan Zone] (Official ESPN Research via Surveys and Forums)
* [ The Daly Planet]
* [ FanZone Sports] (Shows weekly Motorsports on ESPN schedule)
* [ The King of all Sports Media – ESPN]
* [ Sports Business News] December 20, 2006


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