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Screensport Logo (1987-1989)
Launched 29 March 1984
Closed 1 March 1993[1]
Owned by WH Smith Group
ESPN, Inc..[2]

Screensport was a pan-European sports television channel that broadcast from 1984 to 1993 before merging with Eurosport.[3]


Original Screensport logo (1984-1987)

Screensport was founded in 1981 by Bob Kennedy[4][5] — who had started up BBC Radio Leicester, what became Sky One and several independent commercial radio stations.[6] Backers included US networks ABC and ESPN.[7] A programming deal with TransWorld International allowed access to events taking place around the world.[8][9]

The channel began broadcasting on 29 March 1984.[10] Media Communications controlled the studios and transmission facilities in Knutsford, Cheshire, while its administration office was based in London. Apart from American sports, the station aired regular and weekly British sports including British speedway and stock cars. Screensport aired only recorded programming until 31 August 1984,[11] when they showed live greyhound racing from Wembley Stadium - including the St Leger.

By late 1984, WH Smith Television Group had purchased a 15% stake in the company.[3] RCA also acquired a 10% share in the business. Other investors included Ladbrokes and the pension fund of the National Coal Board.[11][12] Former BBC executive Aubrey Singer was a prominent board member.[13]

In 1985, the station started to expand its broadcasting area to include the Netherlands[14] and Sweden, introducing new programmes and sports including ice speedway, Dutch ice hockey, and motor sport. Coverage of English football began in the same year, screening the Area and National finals from the Freight Rover Trophy,[15] a competition for lower division clubs.

In addition, the channel both sponsored and broadcast the Football League Super Cup in the 1985–86 season. The competition was designed to compensate clubs who were banned from European competition due to the Heysel Stadium disaster, but was scrapped after the first edition.

WH Smith era[edit]

Newer Screensport logo, used from 1989 until the channel was closed down in 1993 by new owners, Eurosport

The WH Smith Television Group took over the operation and management of the network when ABC and Bob Kennedy pulled out in January 1986.[16] By the end of 1986, the station had lost £700,000, and no longer broadcast in Sweden, which resulted in a loss of 100,000 customers.[16]

The channel had acquired rights to cover some major events. In 1987, Screensport broadcast live coverage of the US Masters golf from Augusta,[17] and many other PGA Tour events. Grand Slam tennis was also covered in the shape of the US Open.[18] NHL ice hockey, NBA and NASCAR racing were common items on the schedule during this period.

During the 1987/88 football season, Screensport was the only source of weekly extended English Football League highlights for UK viewers. The channel signed a deal with Thames Television, who were the Football League's agent for international distribution, to transmit 34 recorded matches via cable and satellite.[19] Thames produced the programme, called Big League Soccer.[20]

In December 1988, ESPN increased its stake in the channel from 3.5% to 25.5% after purchasing shares from WH Smith for £4.4 million.[21] By then, Screensport had increased its sports content, allowing the channel to broadcast for 18.5 hours each day. The schedule included ice hockey, skiing, golf, tennis, and yachting. By 1989, Screensport was renamed The European Sports Network, while WH Smith Television Group later renamed itself WHSTV.[2]

The channel also began broadcasting on the Astra 1A satellite in 1989, following a move of its operations from the north of England to central London, after taking full control of Molinare, a television service group, in May 1989,[22] which helped Screensport to operate as one channel under four different names: Screensport in English, TV Sport in French, Sportkanal in German, and Sportnet in Dutch.

In 1992, Screensport forged an alliance with ITV Sport to bid for rights to coverage of the newly formed English Premier League.[23][24] Sky Sports and the BBC were the eventual winners of the contract.


In January 1993, Eurosport and Screensport proposed a merger to provide a single channel, as both channels were operating at a loss. The hope was that a merged channel would become financially profitable.[25] The merger finally took place on 1 March 1993; that same day, Screensport was shut down for good.[3]


In 1987, Screensport filed with the Commission of the European Communities, alleging that the joint purchasing scheme for sporting events by Eurosport's former owners, Sky Television plc and the EBU, violated the competition (antitrust) law rules of the Treaty of Rome. After provisions were made for non-member access to the programming, the Commission granted the EBU a five-year conditional exemption from the requirements of the competition rules.[26][27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Commission Decision of 19 February 1991 relating to a proceeding pursuant to Article 85 of the EEC Treaty (IV/32.524 - Screensport/EBU members)". Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^ "Transnational Television in Europe: Reconfiguring Global Communications Networks" by Jean K. Chalaby; I.B.Tauris, 2009, p. 18-19 {{cite url=}}
  5. ^ Cable Television and the Future of Broadcasting. Edited by Ralph Negrine, 1985, ISBN 978-0-415-83924-2.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Screen International", 7 January 1984, p. 31
  8. ^ "Screen International", 25 February 1984, Issue 434, p. 19
  9. ^ Joint Ventures, Alliances, and Corporate Strategy Kathryn Rudie Harrigan. p. 169 ISBN 1-58798-195-5.
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "RCA buys share in Screen Sport", The Stage and Television Today, 6 September 1984, Issue 5395, p. 13
  12. ^ Screen International, 25 August 1984, Issue 460, p.37
  13. ^ Screen International, 26 May 1984, Issue 447, p.23
  14. ^ Variety, 28 August 1985, Vol. 320, p. 67
  15. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ a b "Shadow cast over cable TV". Jonathan Miller, Media Correspondent. The Times, 1 December 1986; p. 3.
  17. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Leeds game moved, The Guardian; 18 Jul 1987, p.15
  20. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ "Stake raised". The Times, 7 December 1988; p. 27
  22. ^ "WH Smith in £4.4m TV bid". The Times, 17 May 1989; p. 26
  23. ^ "Screensport part of ITV deal", The Guardian, Martin Thorpe, 28 February 1992, p. 18
  24. ^ "Screensport teams up with ITV", Broadcast, 6 March 1992, p. 1
  25. ^ "Satellite channels to merge". The Times 14 January 1993; p. 40
  26. ^
  27. ^ From Satellite to Single Market: New Communication Technology and European ... Richard Collins, ISBN 0-203-98424-2.
  28. ^ "Screensport issues writ over TV pact". Melinda Wittstock. The Times 15 May 1991; p. 22

External links[edit]