|Traded as||ESPN Events|
Ohlmeyer Communications Corporation
|Pete Derzis (general manager/senior vice president)|
|Parent||The Walt Disney Company (80%)
Hearst Corporation (20%)
ESPN Regional Television, Inc., currently operating under the name ESPN Events (and also known as ESPN Regional or ESPN Plus, and abbreviated as "ERT"), is an American sports programming syndicator that is owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and the Hearst Corporation (which owns the remaining 20%).
ESPN Regional Television is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, sharing its operations with sister network ESPNU. Prior to its purchase by ESPN, the company was known as Creative Sports, which in turn merged with Don Ohlmeyer's Ohlmeyer Communications Corporation Sports (OCC Sports). Through its division ESPN Events, the corporation also organizes sporting events for broadcast across the ESPN family of networks, including, most prominently, a group of college football bowl games.
Most of ESPN's syndicated broadcasts were previously presented under the on-air name ESPN Plus. However, the brand has since been phased out from its productions in favor of conference brands, such as SEC TV and the Big 12 Network. The unit produces sporting events for syndication on broadcast stations, regional sports networks; these telecasts are also available on the ESPN GamePlan and ESPN Full Court out-of-market sports packages, and since 2007, on ESPN3/WatchESPN.
The company traces its history to Creative Sports, Inc., a North Carolina-based sports syndicator owned and founded by Bray Cary. ESPN Inc. purchased Creative Sports, Inc. and OCC Sports, Inc. in the mid-1990s.
ESPN Regional Television was formed in 1996, through ESPN Inc.'s combination of Creative Sports and OCC Sports; the unit was originally under the direction of Chuck Gerber and Loren Matthews. On March 12, 1999, ESPN Regional Television was incorporated in New York.
In January 2000, Loren Matthews left ESPN Regional Television for an executive position at sister division ABC Sports. By February 2000, ERT acquired the production rights to the Arena Football League; this included responsibilities for AFL broadcasts on the The Nashville Network, which had ESPN retain duties for the events in lieu of its own unit World Sports Enterprises. In 2001, ESPN Regional Television moved beyond broadcasting college football bowl games, when it purchased the Las Vegas Bowl.
In August 2008, ESPN Regional Television secured a 15-year broadcast rights agreement with the Southeastern Conference, assuming the conference syndication rights from Raycom Sports. ERT syndicates games involving the conference's team under the "SEC Network" brand; through the deal, some SEC games also began airing on ESPNU beginning in 2009, as well as on ESPN and ESPN2 under the "SEC on ESPN" brand.
ESPN Regional Television produces and syndicates broadcasts from the following conferences:
- American Athletic Conference men's college basketball (starting with the 2008 football season, these games are branded as the Big East Network, later the American Athletic Network, with SportsNet New York as the flagship station)
- Big 12 Conference basketball (telecasts from the conference became branded under the Big 12 Network name beginning in the 2008–09 season)
- Mid-American Conference football
- Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's and women's basketball
- Sun Belt Conference football and men’s basketball (telecasts from the conference are branded under the Sun Belt Network name)
- Western Athletic Conference men's basketball
ESPN Plus formerly held the rights to Conference USA football and basketball, Mountain West Conference football and basketball, and Big Ten Conference football and basketball, but has since lost them as detailed below:
- Conference USA – Broadcast rights were for regular-season football games (the C-USA Championship rights are held by CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports, which also holds rights to conference basketball games in conjunction with CBS). The American Sports Network, a competing college sports programming syndicator, began to syndicate other C-USA games with the 2014 season.
- Mid-American Conference basketball – Broadcast rights were assumed by SportsTime Ohio in 2010.
- Mountain West Conference – Broadcast rights to MWC football and basketball games are now held by CBS Sports Network and NBCSN (conference rights were previously held by the now-defunct MountainWest Sports Network).
- Big Ten Conference – Broadcast rights to Big Ten Conference football and basketball games not selected to air regionally or nationally on CBS, ESPN or ESPN2 are currently held by the Big Ten Network. ESPN Plus lost the Big Ten rights to the network when it launched in August 2007.
- Southeastern Conference (SEC) – Broadcast rights to SEC football and basketball games not selected to air regionally or nationally on CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU were assumed by the SEC Network (owned by ESPN Regional Television parent ESPN) starting with the 2014 football season and the 2014-15 basketball season, as part of a new 20-year contract between the SEC and ESPN that resulted in the creation of the network. The conference rights were previously held by Raycom Sports, and before that Lincoln Financial Sports (formerly Jefferson Pilot Sports from 1987 to 2009), before becoming produced by ESPN Plus (under the syndicated SEC Network brand, rebranded as SEC TV in 2013).
- Cara Capuano – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2009–2012)
- Paul Carcaterra – Big East Conference sideline reporter (2012)
- Doug Chapman – Mid-America Conference color commentator (2009–2012; alternating from 2010 onward)
- John Congemi – Big East Conference color commentator (2009–2011)
- David Diaz-Infante – Big East Conference color commentator (2012)
- Doug Graber – Mid-America Conference color commentator (2010–2012; alternating)
- Mike Gleason – Big East Conference play-by-play (2009–2011)
- Quint Kessenich – Big East Conference sideline reporter (2009)
- Eamon McAnaney – Big East Conference sideline reporter (2010–2011), play-by-play (2012)
- Dave Neal – Southeastern Conference play-by-play (2009–2012)
- Michael Reghi – Mid-America Conference play-by-play (2009–2012)
- Andre Ware – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2009–2012)
- Dave Armstrong – Big 12 Conference play-by-play (2010–2013)
- Dave Baker – Southeastern Conference play-by-play (2012–2013)
- Carter Blackburn – Southeastern Conference play-by-play (2010–2012)
- Barry Booker – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
- Joe Dean Jr. – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2010–2013)
- Reid Gettys – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Mark Gottfried – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2010–2011)
- Mike Gleason – Big East Conference play-by-play (2010–2012)
- Mitch Holthus – Big 12 Conference play-by-play (2010–2013)
- Stephen Howard – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Kara Lawson – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2011–2013)
- Dave Lamont – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2012–2013)
- Kyle Macy – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
- Bryndon Manzer – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Clay Matvick – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Dave Neal – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2012–2013)
- Chris Piper – Big 12 Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
- Brad Sham – Big 12 Conference play-by-play (2010–2013)
- Anish Shroff – Big East Conference play-by-play (2012–2013)
- Jon Sundvold – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2012)
- Bob Wenzel – Big East Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Rich Zvosec – Big 12 Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
Through ERT's ESPN Events division, the group also owns and organizes sporting events for broadcast across the ESPN family of networks. ESPN Events organizes the following college football bowl games:
- Armed Forces Bowl
- Birmingham Bowl
- Boca Raton Bowl
- Camellia Bowl
- Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
- Hawaiʻi Bowl
- Heart of Dallas Bowl
- Las Vegas Bowl (2001–present)
- New Mexico Bowl
- St. Petersburg Bowl
- Texas Bowl
ERT acquired its first bowl game in 2001, with its purchase of the Las Vagas Bowl from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The company moved into the area as it saw that some of their conference partners had teams that were qualified to appear in a bowl game, but with no bowl available to take them. By 2013, ERT had founded two new bowl games and purchased four additional games.
Most of these games (with the exception of the Armed Forces, Birmingham and Texas Bowls) are usually held before Christmas, and until 2006 were branded under the banner title "Bowl Road Trip", while ESPN telecasts of bowl games held after Christmas were branded as "Capital One Bowl Week". As of the 2007 bowl season, however, "Bowl Week" now covers all non-college football playoff games shown on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.
ESPN Events organizes the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by The Walt Disney Company (the division's corporate parent), a regular season game between teams representing two conferences of historically black colleges and universities in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
ESPN Events also organizes college basketball events, such as the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, California; the Jimmy V Classic in New York City; the Champions Classic in Indianapolis; the Charleston Classic in South Carolina; the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Orlando Classic held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando; the Puerto Rico Tip-Off held in Bayamón, Puerto Rico; the Armed Forces Classic held at USCG Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and the SEARS BracketBusters games held in February each year. Most games in these tournaments are televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU; those not shown on television air on ESPN3.
In golf, ERT also produced the Champions Tour's Wendy's Champions Skins Game, which respectively aired on ABC and ESPN2. The company produced the Skins Game, which it owns via the purchase of OCC Sports. ERT also organizes the National Golf Challenge amateur tournament.
College marketing division
The company's success with college tournament operation and broadcasting led ESPN Regional Television to form a college marketing division, which provides colleges all-in-one services for selling sponsorships, local media rights and other marketing campaigns. The University of South Florida, the University of Kansas and the University of Oregon are some of the clients that the division began representing in 2000.
- Erik Spanberg (February 21, 2000). "ESPN's secret weapon". Charlotte Business Journal (American City Business Journals). Retrieved September 23, 2014.
- "ESPN REGIONAL TELEVISION, INC.". Entity Information. NYS Department of State. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
- Alicia Jessop (January 5, 2013). "ESPN's Path to Becoming a Bowl Game Owner and Redefining Bowl Game Operations". Forbes. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
- Jon Solomon (August 25, 2008). "ESPN, SEC reach 15-year, $2.25 billion pact". AL.com (Alabama Media Group). Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- "SEC Network timeline: The conference's journey to its own television channel". AL.com (Alabama Media Group). April 15, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- "Big 12 Men's Basketball Television Frequently Asked Questions". Big 12 Conference.
- "About the SEC Network". SEC Network.
- Brent Schrotenboer (December 11, 2012). "The Windfall Bowl: Pay for bowl directors keeps rising". USA Today (Gannett Company). Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- Jon Solomon (August 19, 2013). "Montgomery lands ESPN-owned bowl between Sun Belt and MAC". al.com (Alabama Media Group). Retrieved September 24, 2014.
- "ESPN Plus Official Site - About ESPN Regional Television". ESPN Regional Television.