ESPN Classic

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For the Canadian channel of this name, see ESPN Classic (Canada). For the British channel, see ESPN Classic (UK). For the Italian channel, see ESPN Classic (Italy).
ESPN Classic
ESPN Classic Logo.svg
ESPN Classic logo
Launched 1995[specify]
(as Classic Sports Network)
Owned by ESPN Inc.
(The Walt Disney Company (80%)
Hearst Corporation (20%))
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area Nationwide
Headquarters Bristol, Connecticut
Formerly called Classic Sports Network (1995–1998)
Sister channel(s) ESPN
ESPN2
ESPNU
ESPNews
ESPN Plus
ESPN on ABC
Website ESPN Classic
ESPN Classic in Europe
Availability
Satellite
DirecTV Channel 614 (SD)
Dish Network Channel 143 (SD)
DStv Channel 231
OTE TV (Greece) Channel 308
Cyfrowy Polsat (Poland) Channel 17
Cyfra+ (Poland) Channel 127
Cable
Verizon FiOS Channel 310 (SD)
UPC Poland Channel 570
Vectra (Poland) Channel 225
Available on most other cable systems Check local listings for details
IPTV
AT&T U-Verse Channel 603 (SD)

ESPN Classic is an American digital cable and satellite television network owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and Hearst Corporation (which owns 20%). The channel features reruns of famous sporting events, sports documentaries, and sports-themed movies. Such programs include biographies of famous sports figures or a rerun of a marquee World Series or Super Bowl game, often with added commentary on the event.

As of August 2013, approximately 30,715,000 American households (26.9% of households with television) receive ESPN Classic.[1]

History[edit]

The channel was launched in 1995 as Classic Sports Network, founded by Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg (who both went on to launch CSTV (now CBS Sports Network)), with partial funding from Allen & Company. In 1997, ESPN, Inc. purchased Classic Sports Network for $175 million[2] and rebranded it as ESPN Classic a year later. Throughout its history, dating back to Classic Sports Network, the channel's logo has incorporated a stylized silhouette intending to resemble a boxer.

In February 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that NFL Network chief executive Steve Bornstein was been in “high-level discussions” with NFL and Disney executives including CEO Robert Iger and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. An analyst quoted in the report suggested a merger of NFL Network with ESPN Classic due to the latter's wide distribution on expanded basic cable tiers.[3] Though a consolidation of the two channels has not yet materialized, ESPN's networks and NFL Network have begun sharing programming (for instance, an episode of NFL's Greatest Games may air on NFL Network one night, then air on ESPN2 the next).

On August 4, 2009, Dish Network filed a federal lawsuit against ESPN for $1 million, alleging that the network breached its contract by not extending the same contractual term of carriage that ESPN provided to Comcast and DirecTV for ESPNU and ESPN Classic. The lawsuit claimed that ESPN violated the "Most Favored Nations" clause.[4] The following day, representatives for ESPN announced in a press release that they would fight the lawsuit, stating: "We have repeatedly advised Dish that we are in full compliance with our agreement and have offered them a distribution opportunity with respect to ESPNU and ESPN Classic consistent with the rest of the industry. We will not renegotiate settled contracts and will vigorously defend this legal action, the apparent sole purpose of which is to get a better deal."[5]

Programming[edit]

See also ESPN significant programming rights

In a cost-cutting move, ESPN Classic's schedule (as of December 2008) is now largely composed of ESPN original programming, highlighting sports such as poker, bowling, and boxing, with less emphasis on rebroadcasting classic major league sporting events (a practice which has, however, been adopted by sports networks associated with a league or individual teams, among other channels). Since 2005, the channel has also frequently broadcast overflow programming from the main ESPN channels, and reruns of ESPN-produced telecasts of recent sporting events that the network has declared an "Instant Classic".

ESPN Classic was the only U.S.-based ESPN network (and one of two Disney-owned cable channels in the U.S., alongside ABC Family) that aired infomercials, which run daily from 6 to 7 a.m. ET. As of May 20, 2012, ESPN Classic is the only remaining ESPN-branded network and the only cable channel owned by Disney that does not operate a high definition simulcast channel, due to the majority of its content being vintage footage produced before the existence of high definition television; outside of specific programming available in widescreen, the channel airs all programming in the 4:3 aspect ratio. It is also the only ESPN network that is not available on the network's WatchESPN app for mobile devices.

Older sports programming from the 1990s and earlier have moved almost entirely to league-specific networks including the Big Ten Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, NFL Network, The Tennis Channel, or various team-owned regional sports networks.

As of 2011, the channel has drifted toward reruns of entertainment series in prime time, while movies (mostly ESPN Films productions and documentaries such as the 30 for 30 series) make up the majority of ESPN Classic's weekend schedule. The majority of "classic" sports events in ESPN Classic's program library are college football and basketball games from the past decade.

Broadcasting of live events[edit]

The first live event to be shown on ESPN Classic was the implosion of the Seattle Kingdome in March 2000. By 2005 however, ESPN Classic began to broadcast more live sporting events, such as special "ESPN Classic Live" telecasts of college basketball games that featured veteran commentators and older-styled graphics. At this time, ESPN Classic also began to be used as an overflow channel for programming that could not be shown on ESPN or ESPN2 due to scheduling conflicts (these have since been moved to ESPNEWS); these have included additional college football and basketball games, the "ESPN Classic Game of the Week" (a Sunday rebroadcast of an ESPN/ABC-televised college football game from the past Saturday), IRL events, live coverage of selected HBCU games (especially since the term "classic" is used for special neutral-site HBCU games), and tape-delayed UEFA Champions League soccer games.

Examples of live sporting events broadcast by ESPN Classic due to scheduling overruns on ESPN or ESPN2, include the following from the third quarter of 2007:

Since then, these games or events have been shown live on ESPN Classic:

ESPN Classic was also the official broadcaster of the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony until 2009 (when it moved to MLB Network). On August 25, 2012, ESPN Classic aired an Atlantic League baseball game between the Sugar Land Skeeters and Bridgeport Bluefish; featuring Roger Clemens as a starting pitcher for the Skeeters.[6]

While not a live event, in 2008 ESPN Classic also notably broadcast a previously untelevised college basketball game played on January 23, 2008 between Baylor and Texas A&M, which Baylor won 116-110 in five overtimes. Due to an unlikely set of circumstances, the actual game, held at Reed Arena on the A&M campus, was never televised. ESPN Classic used the feeds from the arena's in-house cameras, normally used to allow highlights to be displayed on Jumbotron screens, and the original play-by-play and commentary from A&M's radio broadcasters to create a complete telecast. The telecast aired on March 5, 2008 on ESPN Classic before the rematch between the two teams at Baylor aired on ESPN2.[7]

Fan interactive specials[edit]

A recent development of ESPN Classic is a series of specials in which fan balloting determines the greatest teams in the history of particular sports. In March 2006, the 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels won the fan poll for best-ever college basketball team, in October 2006, the 1927 New York Yankees won for best Major League Baseball team, and in December 2006, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers won the fan poll for best-ever college football team.[8]

Each of these programs features expert analysis and live interactive voting online at ESPN.com. The first votes are cast one week before the scheduled live show, and balloting continues online and via text messaging until the end of the show.

Cessation of original programming[edit]

On January 14, 2007, Deadspin.com reported that ESPN Classic would no longer develop or air original programming. It was not immediately clear what would replace such programs,[9] however, it was assumed that shows that were already produced, but not yet aired, would be broadcast at least for a few more months.

Over the next few months, new episodes of Missing Link, Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame, and Ringside aired as scheduled. However, Missing Link was cancelled in June 2007, at which time production was also halted on the other two shows. The long-term future of ESPN Classic appears to be uncertain.

List of programs broadcast by ESPN Classic[edit]

Current programming[edit]

Former programming[edit]

In pop culture[edit]

In a recurring series of Saturday Night Live skits, ESPN Classic is parodied. The scenes are archived obscure women's sportscasts from the 1980s such as bowling, weight lifting and curling, with announcers who know nothing about the sport, and instead focus on promoting the sponsors, which were always women's hygiene products.

References[edit]

External links[edit]