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"ABC Sports" redirects here. For other uses, see ABC Sports (disambiguation).
ESPN on ABC logo 2D..png
New ESPN on ABC logo, introduced in 2013.
Formerly known as ABC Sports
Key people John Skipper
Major broadcasting contracts NBA
College football
IndyCar Series
Owner 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 in the United States. Officially, the broadcast network retains its own sports division; however, for all practical purposes, ABC's sports division has been merged into ESPN Inc., the cable sports broadcaster majority owned by ABC's corporate 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.[1]

Prior to September 2, 2006, the broadcast network's coverage carried the ABC Sports brand,[2] 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 would not air in certain markets.



Like its longtime competitors CBS Sports and NBC Sports, ABC Sports was originally part of the news division of the ABC network, and, after 1961, later became a separate sports division.

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. At the time, Edward Scherick served 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 the company after leaving CBS, when the network would not make him the head of sports programming, choosing instead to appoint 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 was not interested in "For Men Only," he recognized the talent that 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. With this, 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 event broadcasts had consisted of simple set-ups and focused on the game itself. In his memo, Arledge not only offered another way to broadcast the game to the sports fan, but recognized that television had to take fans to the game. In addition, Arledge had the forethought to realize that the broadcasts needed to attract, and hold the attention of female 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 the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs which was won by Alabama, 21–6.

Despite the production values he brought to NCAA college football, Scherick wanted low-budget sports programming (as in inexpensive broadcasting rights) 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 that Americans understood games.

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's programming operations 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 during the first year of Wide World '​s run. Arledge had a genius for the dramatic storyline 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 have otherwise watched a sporting event. More importantly from Arledge's perspective, Wide World of Sports allowed him to demonstrate his ability as an administrator as well as a 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.[3] Over the next few years, the look of those programs became more intimate and entertaining, as ABC under Arledge introduced techniques such as slow motion replay, 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 primetime programming, but created a national pastime. At first nobody, including the affiliates and the advertisers, supported the idea of primetime football games at the beginning of the week. Arledge said regarding this skepticism, "But I thought there was something special about football, 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 the technical innovations envisioned by Arledge 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. Arledge said, "CBS had been the basic football network. They treated it like a religion and would almost never criticize it. But if you screwed up on Monday Night Football, Cosell would let everyone know about it." Arledge proudly pointed 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 described it, it was 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 established anchors and correspondents such as David Brinkley and Diane Sawyer and paid unheard-of salaries, including the first million-dollar contract to Barbara Walters.[4]

1980s and 1990s: Disney purchase and ESPN integration[edit]

The ABC-TV Sports broadcasting complex at the 1993 Indianapolis 500.

The seeds of its eventual integration with ESPN occurred when ABC bought majority control of ESPN in 1984. One year later, Capital Cities Communications bought ABC for US$3.5 billion. 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 tags 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.

ESPN graphics also appeared on ABC's telecasts of motor sports events like IndyCar and NASCAR during this period.

Early 2000s: Continued integration[edit]

Alternate ABC Sports logo, used from 2001 to 2006.

Between 2000 and 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. As a result, ESPN uses some union production crews for its coverage (as the networks normally do), whereas non-union personnel are quite common in cable sports broadcasting.

Late 2000s: The end of ABC Sports[edit]

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 the ESPN 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 NBCSN. IndyCar fans who have criticized ESPN on ABC's broadcasts have used "Always Bad Coverage" as a derogatory backronym.[5] On the other hand, ESPN airs Major League Baseball games; however, ABC does not as Fox holds the over-the-air television rights to MLB telecasts.

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, with that game 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, which were 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 alongside the ABC logo.

ESPN, ABC Sports, and Hearst[edit]

ESPN on ABC logo from introduction in 2006 to 2013.

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.[6] 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 (which owns an 80% controlling interest) and the Hearst Corporation (which owns the remaining 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-owned stations such as NBC affiliate WBAL-TV in Baltimore have been able to air NFL games from ESPN for the same reason (WMOR-TV in the Tampa market is also eligible to air these games, but rarely if ever does so).[7] Under NFL broadcasting rules, the league's cable games must be simulcast on broadcast television in the local markets of the teams playing in the broadcast, though the home team's market does not get the game if tickets do 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 owned-and-operated stations 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 airing ABC's Monday night schedule, which includes the popular Dancing with the Stars.[8]

ESPN has since been criticized for decreasing the amount of sports on ABC. Several ABC affiliates have also voiced opposition regarding the increasing migration of live sporting events from ABC to ESPN.[9] An example was the broadcasting of NASCAR: from 2007 to 2009, ABC showed all of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races, along with one other race. From 2010 to 2014, ABC only showed three Sprint Cup races with only one 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 would return to ABC for the 2013 season). This, however, is not entirely the fault of ESPN, as ABC in general has attracted a primarily female viewership in recent years, with sports largely attracting a male-dominated audience.[10]

The decrease in sports events televised by ABC has resulted in the network having a very inconsistent weekend afternoon sports schedule similar (if not equal) to Fox, with ESPN-produced sports specials and/or ABC-supplied rerun blocks of certain primetime network shows as well as syndicated programs, infomercials scheduled by the network's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates and more recently, skating specials supplied by an independent skating company called Disson Skating filling the weekend afternoon schedule on days when the network is not scheduled to air a sporting event.

Exceptions to network integration[edit]

Unlike sports events shown on ESPN and ESPN2, telecasts shown on ABC are not available on the WatchESPN mobile and desktop application or on the ESPN3 website. However, some college football games are shown on ESPN or ESPN2 in areas where they are not shown on the local stations; this is known as a "reverse mirror." Typically, these games are shown at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturdays. ABC games are also featured as part of the rotation for ESPN Goal Line, which is available through WatchESPN.

Unlike other ESPN networks, ESPN on ABC events are still produced with graphics and a BottomLine framed for the 4:3 aspect ratio as opposed to 16:9. Until 2014, the ticker carried no network branding, as the ABC bug was directly above it. Since the introduction of a new iteration of the BottomLine in July 2014, the ABC bug is now docked on the BottomLine itself, similarly to ESPN proper.


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 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[edit]

Current programs[edit]

Additional programming[edit]

Former programs[edit]

Notable personalities[edit]





Studio hosts[edit]





Studio hosts[edit]

Behind the scenes[edit]


ABC Sports[edit]


See also[edit]

The following broadcast television sports organizations are main competitors to ESPN on ABC:


  1. ^ Deitsch, Richard (August 10, 2006). "Worldwide leader expands". 
  2. ^ "'ESPN on ABC' to debut during college football season". ESPN. Associated Press. August 10, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Roone Arledge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". Retrieved 2013-07-07. 
  4. ^ "Roone Arledge". 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2013-07-07. 
  5. ^ Miller, Robin (July 12, 2012). "Miller’s Mailbag, 7.12". Speed. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ Show "WGN-TV To Carry Monday Night's Bears/Cowboys Game, Plus Local Pre-Game". Chicagoland Radio and Media. Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  9. ^ Consoli, Jon (2010-02-09). "ABC affiliates upset about losing sports to ESPN". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  10. ^ "ABC adds 14 new shows for next season". WJLA-TV (via the Associated Press). May 14, 2013. 
  11. ^ NASCAR broadcaster Allen Bestwick to move to IndyCar Series broadcasts -
  12. ^ "Marty Reid Fired: ESPN Replaces NASCAR, IndyCar Announcer After Nationwide Gaffe (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. 2013-09-29. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  13. ^ "Dennis Swanson Retires as ABC Sports President". Philadelphia Inquirer. April 11, 1996. 
  14. ^ "Bornstein to lead ABC". The Telegraph-Herald. April 12, 2001. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  15. ^ "Howard Katz resigns as ABC Sports President". ABC Sports. April 18, 2003. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 

External links[edit]