ESPN on ABC
ESPN on ABC logo
|Formerly known as||ABC Sports|
|Key people||John Skipper|
|Major broadcasting contracts||NBA
|Parent||The Walt Disney Company|
|Official website||ESPN on ABC|
ESPN on ABC (formerly known as ABC Sports) is the brand used for sports programming on the ABC television network. Officially the broadcast network retains its own sports division; however, for all practical purposes, ABC's sports division has been merged with ESPN, a sports cable network majority-owned by ABC's parent, The Walt Disney Company.
ABC broadcasts use ESPN's production and announcing staff, and incorporate elements such as ESPN-branded on-screen graphics, SportsCenter in-game updates, and the BottomLine ticker. The ABC logo is used for the digital on-screen graphic in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, and is also used for promotions so that viewers will know to tune into the broadcast network and not the ESPN cable channel.
Prior to September 2, 2006, the broadcast network's coverage carried the ABC Sports brand, although integration of ABC's sports division with ESPN had begun a decade earlier. The branding change was made to better orient ESPN viewers with the programming on ABC and provide consistent branding for all sports broadcasts on Disney-owned channels (shortly thereafter, ESPN2's in-game graphics were likewise changed to refer simply to "ESPN"). Despite its name, ABC's sports coverage is supplemental to and not a simulcast of ESPN, although ESPN and ESPN2 will often carry ABC's regional broadcasts that otherwise wouldn't air in certain markets.
Pre Disney/ESPN 
When Roone Arledge came to ABC Sports as a producer of NCAA football games in 1960, the network was in financial shambles. The International Olympic Committee even wanted a bank to guarantee ABC’s contract to broadcast the 1960 Olympics. Edward Scherick was then serving as the de-facto head of ABC Sports.
Scherick had joined the fledgling ABC television network when he persuaded it to purchase Sports Programs, Inc. Scherick had formed this company after leaving CBS when the network would not make him the head of sports programming, choosing instead William C. McPhail, a former baseball public-relations agent. Before ABC Sports even became a formal division of the network, Scherick and ABC programming chief Tom Moore pulled off many programming deals involving the most popular American sporting events.
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. 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 NBC and CBS's advantages in broadcasting live sporting events. In that era, with communications nowhere near as universal as they are today, ABC was able to safely record events on videotape for later broadcast without worrying about an audience finding out the results.
Arledge, his colleague Chuck Howard, and Jim McKay (who left CBS for this opportunity) made up the show on a week-by-week basis the first year it was broadcast. Arledge had a genius for the dramatic story line that unfolded in the course of a game or event. McKay's honest curiosity and reporter's bluntness gave the show an emotional appeal which attracted viewers who might not otherwise watch a sporting event.
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.
Over the next few years, the look of those programs became more intimate, more entertaining, as ABC under Arledge introduced techniques such as slow motion, freeze frame, instant replay, split-screen, hand-held cameras, endzone cameras, underwater cameras and cameras on cranes.
With the creation of Monday Night Football, Arledge not only anchored ABC’s prime time programming but created a national pastime. At first nobody, including the affiliates and the advertisers, supported the idea of prime time, beginning of the week football. “But I thought there was something special about football,” Arledge said, “because there are so few games, and relatively few teams. Also, there is something about the look of a night game, with the lights bouncing off the helmets.”
It was not only the lights that made watching Arledge-style football on ABC an event in itself. The games were transformed into events through Arledge’s jazzy technical innovations and through a new style of sportscaster embodied in Howard Cosell. ABC was the first network not to allow announcer approval by the league from which it was purchasing broadcast rights.
“CBS had been the basic football network. They treated it like a religion and would almost never criticize it,” Arledge said. “But if you screwed up on Monday Night Football, Cosell would let everyone know about it.”
Arledge proudly points out that the program “changed the habits of the nation.”
In 1968, Arledge was promoted to president of ABC Sports, where for the next 18 years his job was his hobby, as he describes it: good because he watched sports for work rather than leisure, but bad because then he had no time left for leisure. He made sportsmen into stars, a trend he would later bring to the news division where he lured big guns such as David Brinkley and Diane Sawyer and paid unheard-of salaries, including the first million-dollar contract to Barbara Walters.
1980s and 1990s: Disney purchase and ESPN integration 
The seeds of its eventual integration with ESPN occurred when ABC bought majority control of ESPN in 1984. A year later, Capital Cities Communications bought ABC. Although some ESPN sportscasters such as John Saunders and Dick Vitale began to also appear on ABC Sports telecasts, ESPN and ABC Sports continued to operate separately.
After The Walt Disney Company bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, Disney started to slowly integrate ESPN and ABC Sports. ESPN personalities like Chris Berman, Mike Tirico, and Brad Nessler worked on ABC Sports programs. In 1998, ESPN adopted ABC Sports' Monday Night Football graphics and music for its Sunday Night Football broadcasts. During that same year, ESPN signed a five-year deal to televise National Hockey League (NHL) games, whereby the cable network essentially bought time on ABC to air selected NHL games. This was noted in copyright beds at the conclusion of the telecasts, i.e. "The preceding program has been paid for by ESPN, Inc." ESPN then signed a similar television rights contract in 2002 so it could produce and broadcast National Basketball Association (NBA) games on ABC.
Early 2000s: Continued integration 
Between 2000-2002, many ABC Sports programs utilized graphics almost identical to those of ESPN. One notable exception was Monday Night Football, which switched to different graphics as part of then-new producer Don Ohlmeyer's attempt to provide some new vigor into those telecasts. From 2002 to 2005, ABC changed graphics each fall, while ESPN's basically remained consistent.
Meanwhile, Disney continued to consolidate the corporate structure of ESPN and ABC Sports. Steve Bornstein was given the title as president of both ESPN and ABC Sports in 1996. The sales, marketing, and production departments of both divisions were eventually merged. Thus, ESPN uses some union production crews for its coverage (as the networks normally do), whereas non-union personnel is quite common in cable sports broadcasting.
Late 2000s: The end of ABC Sports 
It was announced in August 2006 that ABC Sports would be totally integrated into ESPN, using ESPN graphics, music, and production. The brand integration does not directly affect whether ESPN (the cable channel) or ABC carries a particular event, as in most cases this is governed by contracts with the applicable league or organization. Perhaps confusingly, this means that some events are broadcast with ESPN branding during ABC coverage, even though another channel owns the cable rights. For example, TNT owned cable rights to the British Open from 2003 to 2009 (with ABC picking up weekend coverage). Also, since 2009, IndyCar Series rights are currently split between ABC and Versus (now the NBC Sports Network). IndyCar fans who criticize ESPN on ABC broadcasting have used Always Bad Coverage as a derogatory backronym.
The last live sporting event televised under the ABC Sports banner was the United States Championship Game in the Little League World Series on Saturday, August 26, 2006 (ABC was slated to carry the Little League World Series Championship Game on Sunday, August 27, but the game was postponed to Monday August 28 due to rain, subsequently airing on ESPN2). The changeover took effect the following weekend to coincide with the start of the college football season, with NBA, IndyCar Series, and NASCAR coverage eventually following suit.
However, ABC used its own graphics (with the ABC logo), to cover the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, similar to the older-styled ESPN graphics but with a yellow base. In 2008, though, it used the newer yellow and red ESPN graphics which had been used on other recent telecasts but also with the ABC logo.
ESPN, ABC Sports, and Hearst 
Despite the rebranding, it appears that ABC Sports continues to exist, at least nominally, as a division of the ABC network. One indication of this was that George Bodenheimer's official title remained "President, ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports" even after the rebranding – the second part would presumably be unnecessary if ESPN had fully absorbed ABC's sports operations – though following Bodenheimer's retirement at the end of 2011, the latter title has been retired. In addition, ABC itself maintains the copyright over many of the ESPN-branded broadcasts, if they are not contractually assigned to the applicable league or organizer, suggesting that ESPN has merely "loaned" usage of its brand name, staff, and infrastructure to ABC, rather than having acquired ABC Sports outright.
This is likely a minor technicality stemming from ESPN being technically a joint venture of Disney (80%) and Hearst Corporation (20%). Disney has long exercised operating control of the network, while Hearst is believed to be more of a silent partner rather than an active participant in ESPN's management. However, this relationship does mean that Hearst's ABC affiliates, such as WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WCVB-TV in Boston, WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire, WISN-TV in Milwaukee, and KMBC-TV in Kansas City, have first right of refusal on the local simulcasts of ESPN-televised Monday Night Football games involving home-market teams, which are very rarely waived to other stations in their markets. Equally, other Hearst stations such as NBC affiliated WBAL-TV in Baltimore have been able to air NFL games from ESPN for the same reason (WMOR-TV in the Tampa Bay Area is also eligible to air these games, but rarely if ever does so). Under NFL broadcasting rules, the league's cable games must be simulcast on broadcast television in the local markets of the teams playing, though the home team's market does not get the game if it does not sell out 72 hours before kickoff - games that are not sold out must be blacked out in the market of origin. Similar rules and rights were previously in place for ESPN-televised Major League Baseball playoff games, except non-sold out games were not blacked out (MLB does not black out games based on attendance, but rather to protect local broadcasters). ABC O&O's also have right of first refusal for NFL (and previously MLB playoff) simulcasts from ESPN, though in recent years the stations have passed on the game in favor of ABC's Monday night schedule, which includes the popular Dancing with the Stars.
ESPN has since been criticized for decreasing the amount of sports on ABC. Even several ABC affiliates have voiced opposition regarding the increasing migration of live sporting events from ABC to ESPN. An example is the broadcasting of NASCAR. From 2007-2009, ABC showed all of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races, along with 1 other race. Since 2010, ABC only shows 3 races Sprint Cup races with only 1 Chase race (Charlotte) to the outrage of many NASCAR fans and sponsors. Several other events such as college football's Rose Bowl Game, golf's British Open, and the Capital One Bowl have also been moved from ABC to ESPN (although the Capital One Bowl will return to ABC in the 2012 season).
Until 2001, ABC Sports programs ended with the line "This has been a presentation of ABC Sports - Recognized around the world as the leader in sports television." Beginning in 2001, ABC changed the tagline to "ABC Sports - Championship Television," in regards to ABC's sports lineup (which included the BCS championship, the MLS Cup final, the Stanley Cup Finals, rights to Super Bowl coverage, and would later include the NBA Finals). Ever since the ESPN on ABC integration, the ESPN tagline - "This has been a presentation of ESPN - The Worldwide Leader in Sports" - has been used at the end of each broadcast on ABC.
Programs throughout the years 
Current programs 
- NBA on ABC (1965–1973, 2002–present)
- ESPN College Football on ABC (1950, 1966–present)
- NASCAR on ESPN (1961, 1971, 1975–1976, 1979–1982, 1984–2000, 2007–present)
- IndyCar Series (1996–present)
- American Le Mans Series (2011–present)
- ESPN College Basketball on ABC (1962, 1973, 1978, & 1987–present)
- FIFA World Cup (1970, 1982, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014)
- Little League World Series (1963–present)
- X Games (1997–present)
- ESPN Sports Saturday (2010–present)
Former programs 
- Monday Night Football (1970–2005)
- Major League Baseball on ABC
- ESPN College Football on ABC
- PGA Tour on ABC (1966–2009)
- Thoroughbred Racing on ESPN
- NHL on ABC (1992–1994, 1999–2004)
- ESPN Major League Soccer (1996–2008)
- Arena Football League on ESPN (1998–2002, 2007–2008)
- Tennis on ESPN
- BNP Paribas Open (2011–2012)
- Pro Bowlers Tour (1962–1997)
- Champ Car (1983–2001, 2007)
- American Football League (1960–1964)
- North American Soccer League (1979–1981)
- World League of American Football (1991–1992)
- United States Football League (1983–1985)
- Wide World of Sports (1961–1998 as a series, weekend afternoon programming title 1998–2006)
- Winter Olympic Games (1964, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988)
- Summer Olympic Games (1968, 1972, 1976, 1984)
- Scripps National Spelling Bee (2006–2010)
Additional programming 
- ABC also airs The Open Championship Today, a condensed version of ESPN's Saturday and Sunday coverage of the British Open, as well as one-hour versions of the final rounds of the Senior and Women's British Opens.
- Beginning in 2012, ABC will also rebroadcast ESPN's coverage of the Gentlemen's and Ladies' singles finals from Wimbledon.
Notable personalities 
- NBA on ABC - Mike Breen, Mike Tirico
- WNBA on ESPN - Terry Gannon
- ESPN College Basketball on ABC - Brad Nessler
- ESPN College Football on ABC - Sean McDonough, Mike Patrick, Bob Wischusen, Carter Blackburn, Dave Lamont
- NASCAR on ESPN - Allen Bestwick
- IndyCar Series - Marty Reid
- Little League World Series - Karl Ravech
- Saturday Night Football - Brent Musburger
- NBA on ABC - Jeff Van Gundy, Hubie Brown, Jon Barry, Magic Johnson
- WNBA on ESPN - Rebecca Lobo
- ESPN College Football on ABC - Matt Millen, Brock Huard, Ray Bentley, Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, Jesse Palmer
- Saturday Night Football - Kirk Herbstreit
- ESPN College Basketball on ABC - Jimmy Dykes
- NASCAR on ESPN - Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree
- IndyCar Series - Eddie Cheever, Scott Goodyear
- NBA on ABC - Heather Cox, Lisa Salters, Doris Burke
- WNBA on ESPN - Heather Cox
- Saturday Night Football - Heather Cox
- ESPN College Football on ABC - Jenn Brown, Tom Rinaldi
- NASCAR on ESPN / IndyCar Series - Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Vince Welch, Dave Burns
Studio hosts 
- ESPN College Football on ABC - Chris Fowler, John Saunders, Robert Flores
- NBA on ABC - Michael Wilbon
- ESPN Sports Saturday - Hannah Storm
- NASCAR on ESPN - Nicole Briscoe, Brad Daugherty, Rusty Wallace, Ray Evernham, Tim Brewer
- College Football on ABC - Chris Schenkel, Gary Bender, Keith Jackson, Jim Lampley, Curt Gowdy
- College Basketball on ABC - Keith Jackson
- Monday Night Football - Howard Cosell, Al Michaels, Frank Gifford
- Major League Baseball on ABC - Gary Bender, Howard Cosell, Jack Buck, Jim Lampley, Tim McCarver
- Olympics on ABC - Howard Cosell, Curt Gowdy, Chris Schenkel, Frank Gifford, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Bill Flemming, Tim Brant, Jack Whitaker, Sam Posey, Don Chevrier, Tim McCarver, Lynn Swann, Gary Bender, Donna de Varona, Arthur Ashe
- Pro Bowlers Tour - Chris Schenkel
- NBA on ABC - Brad Nessler, Al Michaels
- NHL on ABC - Gary Thorne, Mike Emrick, Al Michaels, Sam Rosen, Dave Strader, Steve Levy
- Wide World of Sports (U.S. TV series) -
- NASCAR on ESPN - Bob Jenkins, Paul Page
- College Football on ABC - Gary Danielson, Bob Griese
- College Basketball on ABC - Jim Valvano, Dick Vitale
- Monday Night Football - Don Meredith, John Madden, Frank Gifford, Dan Dierdorf, Boomer Esiason, O.J. Simpson
- Major League Baseball on ABC - Reggie Jackson
- PGA Tour on ABC - Nick Faldo, Paul Azinger, Ian Baker-Finch, Peter Alliss, Curtis Strange, Jack Nicklaus
- Olympics on ABC - Donna de Varona, O.J. Simpson, Mark Spitz, Digger Phelps
- Pro Bowlers Tour - Billy Welu, Nelson Burton, Jr.
- NHL on ABC - Bill Clement, John Davidson
- Triple Crown - Charlsie Cantey
- NBA on ABC - Mark Jackson
- Rugby World Cup - Grant Fox
- IndyCar Series - Jackie Stewart, Sam Posey
- College Football on ABC - Lynn Swann
- College Basketball on ABC - Thea Andrews
- Monday Night Football - Lesley Visser, Melissa Stark, Michele Tafoya, Sam Ryan
- PGA Tour on ABC - Bob Rosburg, Billy Ray Brown, Judy Rankin
- NASCAR on ESPN - Bill Weber
- Major League Baseball on ABC - Jim Gray
- Saturday Night Football - Lisa Salters, Erin Andrews
Studio hosts 
- Monday Night Football - Chris Berman, Brent Musburger
- Olympics on ABC - Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, Jim Lampley, Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kathleen Sullivan
- Wide World of Sports (U.S. TV series) - Jim McKay, Frank Gifford, Julie Moran, Robin Roberts, Brent Musburger, Keith Jackson
- NHL on ABC - Al Michaels, Chris Berman
- IndyCar Series -Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, Al Michaels, Jim McKay, Bob Jenkins, Paul Page
Behind the scenes 
ABC Sports 
- Roone Arledge: 1968–1986
- Dennis Swanson: 1986–1996
- Steve Bornstein: 1996–1999
- Howard Katz: 1999–2003
- George Bodenheimer: 2003–2006
Main competitors 
- Deitsch, Richard (August 10, 2006). "Worldwide leader expands". SI.com.
- Associated Press (August 10, 2006). "'ESPN on ABC' to debut during college football season". ESPN.
- Miller’s Mailbag, 7.12 - Robin Miller, July 12, 2012
- Cieply, Michael; Stelter, Brian (2011-11-22). "Disney Promotes a New Leader at ESPN". Media Decoder. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- WGN-TV To Carry Monday Night's Bears/Cowboys Game, Plus Local Pre-Game Show. Chicagoland Radio and Media. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
- Consoli, Jon (2010-02-09). "ABC affiliates upset about losing sports to ESPN". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- "Dennis Swanson Retires as ABC Sports President". Philadelphia Inquirer. April 11, 1996.
- "Bornstein to lead ABC". The Telegraph-Herald. April 12, 2001. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- "Howard Katz resigns as ABC Sports President". ABC Sports. ESPN.com. April 18, 2003. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- ESPN on ABC Website
- Saunders: ABC's demise signals end of an era
- What to Watch: Rest in peace, ABC Sports
- The Evolution of ABC