ESPN

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This article is about the U.S. television channel. For the company and other channels of the same name, see ESPN Inc. For the railroad, see East Penn Railroad.
ESPN
ESPN wordmark.svg
Launched September 7, 1979 (1979-09-07)
Owned by ESPN Inc.
(The Walt Disney Company, 80%
Hearst Corporation, 20%)
Picture format 720p (HDTV)
(HD feed downgraded to letterboxed 480i for SDTV sets)
Slogan The Worldwide Leader In Sports
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area Worldwide
Headquarters Bristol, Connecticut
Sister channel(s)
Website espn.go.com
Availability
Satellite
DirecTV 206 (HD/SD)
209-1 (alternate feed; HD/SD)
1206 (VOD)
Dish Network 140 (HD/SD)
144, 145, 146, 147 (alternate feeds)
Cable
Available on most U.S. cable systems Consult your local cable provider for channel availability
IPTV
AT&T U-verse 1602 (HD)
602 (SD)
Verizon FiOS 570 (HD)
70 (SD)
Google Fiber 21 (HD)
Streaming media
WatchESPN Watch live
(U.S. cable Internet subscribers only; requires login from pay television provider to access content)
Sling TV Internet Protocol television

ESPN (originally an acronym for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) is a U.S.-based global cable and satellite television channel owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company (which operates the network, through its 80% controlling ownership interest) and the Hearst Corporation (which holds the remaining 20% interest). The channel focuses on sports-related programming including live and recorded event telecasts, sports news and talk shows, and other original programming.

ESPN broadcasts primarily from studio facilities located in Bristol, Connecticut. The network also operates offices in Miami, New York City, Seattle, Charlotte, and Los Angeles. John Skipper currently serves as president of ESPN, a position he has held since January 1, 2012. While ESPN is one of the most successful sports networks, there has been much criticism of ESPN, which includes accusations of biased coverage,[1] conflict of interest, and controversies with individual broadcasters and analysts.

ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut

As of February 2015, ESPN is available to approximately 94,396,000 paid television households (81.1% of households with at least one television set) in the United States.[2] In addition to the flagship channel and its seven related channels in the United States, ESPN broadcasts in more than 200 countries,[3] operating regional channels in Australia, Brazil, Latin America and the United Kingdom, and owning a 20% interest in The Sports Network (TSN) as well as its five sister networks and NHL Network in Canada.

History[edit]

Main article: History of ESPN

Bill Rasmussen conceived the concept of ESPN in late May 1978, after he was fired from his job with the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers. One of the first steps in Bill and his son Scott's (who had also been let go by the Whalers) process was finding land to build the channel's broadcasting facilities. The Rasmussens first rented office space in Plainville, Connecticut. However, the plan to base ESPN there was put on hold because a local ordinance prohibiting buildings from having satellite dishes installed on them. Available land area was quickly found in Bristol, Connecticut (where the channel remains headquartered to this day), with funding to buy the property provided by Getty Oil, which purchased 85% of the company from Bill Rasmussen on February 22, 1979, in an attempt to diversify the company's holdings. This helped the credibility of the fledgling company, however there were still many doubters to the viability of their sports channel concept. Another event that helped build ESPN's credibility was securing an advertising agreement with Anheuser-Busch in the spring of 1979; the company invested $1 million to be the "exclusive beer advertised on the network."[4]

ESPN launched on September 7, 1979, beginning with the first telecast of what would become the channel's flagship program, SportsCenter. Taped in front of a small live audience inside the Bristol studios, it was broadcast to 1.4 million cable subscribers throughout the United States.[4]

ESPN's next big break came when the channel acquired the rights to broadcast coverage of the early rounds of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. It first aired the NCAA tournament in March 1980, creating the modern day television event known as "March Madness". The channel's tournament coverage also launched the broadcasting career of Dick Vitale, who at the time he joined ESPN, had just been fired as head coach of the Detroit Pistons.

In April of that year, ESPN created another made-for-TV spectacle, when it began televising the NFL Draft. It provided complete coverage of the event that allowed rookie players from the college ranks to launch their brands in front of a national television audience in ways they were not able to previously.

The next major stepping stone for ESPN came over the course of a couple of months in 1984. During this time period, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC] purchased 100% of ESPN from the Rasmussens and Getty Oil.[4] Under Getty ownership, the channel was unable to compete for the television rights to major sports events contracts as its majority corporate parent would not provide the funding, leading ESPN to lose out for broadcast deals with the National Hockey League (to USA Network) and NCAA Division I college football (to TBS). For years, the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball refused to consider cable as a means of broadcasting some of their games.[5] However, with the backing of ABC, ESPN's ability to compete for major sports contracts greatly increased, and gave it credibility within the sports broadcasting industry.

Later in 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA could no longer monopolize the rights to negotiate the contracts for college football games, allowing each individual school to negotiate broadcast deals of their choice. ESPN took full advantage and began to broadcast a large number of NCAA football games, creating an opportunity for fans to be able to view multiple games each weekend (instead of just one), the same deal that the NCAA had previously negotiated with TBS.[5] ESPN's breakthrough moment occurred in 1987, when it secured a contract with the NFL to broadcast eight games during that year's regular season – all of which aired on Sunday nights, marking the first broadcasts of Sunday NFL primetime games. ESPN's Sunday Night Football games would become the highest-rated NFL telecasts for the next 17 years (before losing the rights to NBC in 2006).[6] The channel's decision to broadcast NFL games on Sunday evenings actually resulted in a decline in viewership for the daytime games shown on the major broadcast networks, marking the first time that ESPN had been a legitimate competitor to NBC and CBS, which had long dominated the sports television market.

In 1992, ESPN launched ESPN Radio, a national sports talk radio network providing analysis and commentary programs (including shows such as Mike and Mike in the Morning and The Herd) as well as audio play-by-play of sporting events (including some broadcast by the ESPN television channel).[4]

On October 10, 1993, ESPN2 – a secondary channel that originally was programmed with a separate lineup of niche sports popular with males 18–49 years old (with snowboarding and the World Series of Poker as its headliners) as well as serving as an overflow channel for ESPN – launched on cable systems reaching to 10 million subscribers.[4] It became the fastest growing cable channel in the U.S. during the 1990s, eventually expanding its national reach to 75 million subscribers.[4]

Ownership of ABC, and in effect control of ESPN, was acquired first by Capital Cities Communications in 1985, and then by The Walt Disney Company in 1996. In 2012, ESPN generated more revenue for Disney than any of its other properties combined.[7]

Programming[edit]

Alongside its live sports broadcasts, ESPN also airs a variety of sports highlight, talk, and documentary-styled shows. These include:

Many of ESPN's documentary programs (such as 30 for 30 and Nine for IX) are produced by ESPN Films, a film division created in March 2008 as a restructuring of ESPN Original Entertainment, a programming division that was originally formed in 2001. 30 for 30 started airing in 2009 and continues airing to this day. Each episodes is through the eyes of a well known filmmaker and has featured some of the biggest directors in Hollywood.[8]

Since September 2006, ESPN has been integrated with the sports division of sister broadcast network ABC, with sports events televised on that network airing under the banner ESPN on ABC;[9][10] much of ABC's sports coverage since the rebranding has become increasingly limited to secondary coverage of sporting events whose broadcast rights are held by ESPN (such as NBA games, the The Open Championship, and the X Games and its related qualifying events) as well as a limited array of event coverage not broadcast on ESPN (most notably, the NBA Finals).

Executives[edit]

  • John Skipper – President, ESPN, Inc.[11]
  • Sean Bratches – Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing[12]
  • Christine Driessen – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer[13]
  • Ed Durso – Executive Vice President, Administration[14]
  • Aaron LaBerge – Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer[15]
  • Norby Williamson – Executive Vice President, Programming[16]
  • Russell Wolff – Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International[17]

Related channels[edit]

ESPN2[edit]

Main article: ESPN2

ESPN2 launched on October 1, 1993, originally formatted as a more informal and youth-oriented channel than ESPN aimed at adults between 18 and 34 years of age, carrying a broad mix of event coverage from conventional sports (such as auto racing, college basketball and NHL hockey) to extreme sports (such as BMX, skateboarding and motocross).[18] The "ESPN Bottom Line," a ticker displaying sports news and scores during all programming that is now used by all of ESPN's networks, originated on ESPN2 in 1995.[19] In the late 1990s, ESPN2 was gradually reformatted to serve as a secondary outlet for ESPN's mainstream sports programming.[20]

ESPN Classic[edit]

Main article: ESPN Classic

ESPN Classic is a digital cable and satellite television network that launched in 1995 as Classic Sports Network, founded by Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg. ESPN Inc. purchased Classic Sports Network in 1997 for $175 million,[21] rebranding the channel to its current name the following year. The channel broadcasts notable archived sporting events (originally including events from past decades, but now focusing mainly on events from the 1990s and later), sports documentaries and sports-themed movies.

ESPNews[edit]

Main article: ESPNews

ESPNews is a digital cable and satellite television network that was launched on November 1, 1996, originally focusing solely on sports news, highlights and press conferences. Since August 2010, the network has gradually incorporated encores of ESPN's various sports debate and entertainment shows and video simulcasts of ESPN Radio shows, in addition to sports news programming (which since the 2013 cancellation of Highlight Express,[22] consists mainly of additional runs of SportsCenter); ESPNews also serves as an overflow feed due to programming conflicts caused by sporting events on the other ESPN networks.

ESPN+[edit]

Main article: ESPN+

ESPN+ is a digital cable and satellite television network that launched in 2002, this signal is seen in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and from November 21, 2013, also in Venezuela. ESPN + signal displays events in the this sports: Football, Tennis, Rugby, Cycling, Baseball, Horse Riding, Hockey and sports programs about: Football, Tennis, Rugby, Polo, Hockey, Motor, etc. It is divided into two signals: Atlantic and Pacific.

ESPN Deportes[edit]

Main article: ESPN Deportes

ESPN Deportes (Spanish pronunciation: [i.es.piˈen deˈportes], "ESPN Sports") is a digital cable and satellite television network that was originally launched in July 2001 to provide Spanish language simulcasts of certain Major League Baseball telecasts from ESPN. It became a 24-hour sports channel in January 2004.

ESPNU[edit]

Main article: ESPNU

ESPNU is a digital cable and satellite television network that launched on March 4, 2005, and focuses on college athletics including basketball, football, baseball college swimming, and hockey.

Longhorn Network[edit]

Main article: Longhorn Network

The Longhorn Network is a digital cable and satellite television network that was launched on August 26, 2011, focusing on events from the Texas Longhorns varsity sports teams of the University of Texas at Austin.[23] It features events from the 20 sports sanctioned by the Texas Longhorns athletics department, along with original programming (including historical, academic and cultural content).

SEC Network[edit]

Main article: SEC Network

SEC Network is a digital cable and satellite television network that launched on August 14, 2014, focusing on the coverage of sporting events sanctioned by the Southeastern Conference. Created as a result of a 20-year broadcast partnership between the two entities, the network is a joint venture between the conference and ESPN Inc. (which operates the network).[24][25]

Other services[edit]

Service Description
ESPNHD ESPN launched its high definition simulcast feed, originally branded as ESPNHD, on March 20, 2001. All studio shows based in Bristol and at L.A. Live, along with most live event telecasts on ESPN, are broadcast in high definition. ESPN is one of the few television networks with an all-digital infrastructure. Footage from non-HD sources is presented in 4:3 standard definition with stylized pillarboxing. Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn began airing in HD on September 27, 2010, with the relocation of the production of both shows into the facility housing the Washington, D.C. bureau for ABC News.[26]

ESPN, as with Disney/ABC's other broadcast and cable networks, transmits HD programming in the 720p resolution format; this is due to the fact that ABC executives had proposed a progressive scan signal that resolves fluid and high-speed motion in sports better, particularly during slow-motion replays.[27] In 2011, ESPNHD began to downplay its distinct promotional logo in preparation for the conversion of its standard definition feed from a 4:3 full-screen to a letterboxed format (via the application of the AFD #10 display flag), which occurred on June 1 of that year.

WatchESPN WatchESPN is a website for desktop computers, as well as an application for smartphones and tablet computers that allows subscribers of participating cable and satellite providers to watch live streams of programming from ESPN and its sister networks (with the exception of ESPN Classic), including most sporting events, on computers, mobile devices, Apple TV, Roku and Xbox Live via their TV Everywhere login provided by their cable provider. The service originally launched on October 25, 2010 as ESPN Networks, a streaming service which provided a live stream of ESPN exclusive to Time Warner Cable subscribers.[28] ESPN3, an online streaming service providing live streams and replays of global sports events that launched in 2005 as a separate website,[29] was incorporated into the WatchESPN platform on August 31, 2011.[30]
ESPN Plus ESPN Regional Television (formerly branded as ESPN Plus) is the network's syndication arm, which produces collegiate sporting events for broadcast television stations throughout the United States (primarily those affiliated with networks such as The CW and MyNetworkTV or independent stations). ESPN Plus syndicates college football and basketball games from the American Athletic Conference, Big 12 Conference,[31] Mid-American Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference and the Western Athletic Conference.

In popular culture[edit]

ESPN has been 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 the 2004 comedy DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, which gently lampoons the channel's multiple outlets by referencing the fictional ESPN8, "The Ocho",[32] a reference to a nickname formerly used by ESPN2, "the Deuce".

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 sketches poking fun at the network features a fictional ESPN2 program called Scottish Soccer Hooligan Weekly, which includes a fake advertisement for "Senior Women's Beach Lacrosse". SNL also parodies ESPN Classic with fake archived obscure women's sports event telecasts from the 1980s (such as bowling, weightlifting and curling), with announcers who know nothing about the sport, and instead focus on the sponsors, which were always for feminine hygiene products. In the early years of ESPN, Late Night with David Letterman even featured a "Top Ten List" segment poking fun at some of the obscure sports seen on ESPN at the time. One of the more memorable sports on the list was "Amish Rake Fighting". A recurring skit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon named Sports Freak-Out! is a parody of SportsCenter‍ '​s overexcited anchors.

An occasional joke used in comedic television and film involves people getting ESP (the common abbreviation for extrasensory perception, that was ironically the working abbreviation for the channel prior to its launch) confused with ESPN, often including someone saying a sentence along the lines of "I know these kind of things, I've got ESPN". Sports video game releases by Electronic Arts in the early 1990s featured a logo for a fictional sports network, EASN (Electronic Arts Sports Network); this was soon changed to EA Sports after ESPN requested that the company stop using the similar name. There are also at least 22 children that are named after the network.[33][34]

Criticism[edit]

Main article: Criticism of ESPN

Throughout its history, ESPN has received accusations of biased coverage, conflicts of interest and controversies with individual broadcasters and analysts. ESPN has been criticized for focusing too much on College and Professional Football and Basketball, while not showing enough hockey or Women's athletics.

See also[edit]

Competitors[edit]

The list below features links to articles on national sports networks (both general interest services and channels dedicated to a single sport) that have surfaced in the United States in recent years:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Geography lesson: Breaking down the bias in ESPN's coverage, ESPN.com, August 15, 2008.
  2. ^ Seidman, Robert (February 22, 2015). "List of how many homes each cable network is in as of February 2015". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  3. ^ ESPN Inc Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Hill (January 3, 1984). "ABC buys stake in ESPN". New York Times.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help);
  5. ^ a b Dunnavant (September 4, 2009). (2). Chronicle of Higher Education.  Missing or empty |title= (help);
  6. ^ Goodwin, Michael (October 28, 1987). "ESPN Ends season in middle of pack". New York Times. 
  7. ^ badenhausen, Kurt (November 9, 2012). "Why ESPN Is Worth $40 Billion As The World's Most Valuable Media Property". Forbes. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  8. ^ http://thetvdb.com/?tab=seasonall&id=128051
  9. ^ Deitsch, Richard (August 10, 2006). "Worldwide leader expands". SI.com. 
  10. ^ "'ESPN on ABC' to debut during college football season". ESPN. Associated Press. August 10, 2006. 
  11. ^ James, Meg (November 23, 2011). "John Skipper is promoted to ESPN president". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 24, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  12. ^ "SEAN R. H. BRATCHES Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing". ESPN. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  13. ^ "CHRISTINE F. DRIESSEN Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer". ESPN. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  14. ^ "EDWIN M. DURSO Executive Vice President, Administration". ESPN. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Aaron LaBerge - ESPN MediaZone". ESPN. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  16. ^ "NORBY WILLIAMSON Executive Vice President, Studio and Remote Production". ESPN. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  17. ^ "RUSSELL WOLFF Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International". ESPN. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  18. ^ "Whether you get it or not, ESPN2 has no tie to the tried and true". Baltimore Sun. October 1, 1993. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  19. ^ Hiestand, Michael (March 7, 2008). "Dedicated staff keeps close watch on ESPN's Bottom Line". USA Today. Retrieved March 27, 2008. 
  20. ^ "The Last Days Of ESPN2". February 1, 2012. Deadspin. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  21. ^ Whitford, David (May 25, 2010). "The king of the sports deal". Fortune. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  22. ^ "ESPN Cancels "Highlight Express" And "Unite," While Schwab, Hoenig Among Layoffs". Street & Smith's Sports Business Daily. June 13, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  23. ^ "ESPN and University of Texas unveil 'Longhorn Network' name and logo". TexasSports.com. April 3, 2011. 
  24. ^ "SEC And ESPN Announce New TV Network". SEC. February 5, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  25. ^ "SEC Releases 2014 Conference Football Schedule". SEC. August 21, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  26. ^ ESPN Yakkers Go HD Next Week TVPredictions.com September 20, 2010.
  27. ^ "The HD Experience" (PDF). ESPN. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 9, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  28. ^ Phillips, Amy (October 22, 2010). "Time Warner Cable Customers Can Now Watch ESPN and ESPN3.com On Their Computer". ESPN Inc. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  29. ^ Roberts, Daniel (January 22, 2014). "ESPN's secret web weapon: ESPN3". Fortune. Retrieved August 20, 2014. 
  30. ^ Nagle, Dave (January 6, 2012). "ESPN, Inc.: 2011 in Review". ESPN Inc. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  31. ^ Big 12 Men's Basketball Television Frequently Asked Questions
  32. ^ "Movie Preview: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story". Entertainment Weekly. April 21, 2004. Retrieved July 30, 2008. 
  33. ^ "Texas toddler at least third named ESPN". ESPN. June 16, 2006. 
  34. ^ Hiestand, Michael (February 7, 2006). "Lampley nearing most-called Olympics". USA Today. Retrieved June 9, 2008. ESPN says it's heard of at least 22 babies named ESPN 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Miller, James Andrew; Shales, Tom (2011). Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-04300-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Vogan, Travis (2015). ESPN: The Making of a Sports Media Empire. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03976-8. 

External links[edit]