The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, better known widely as ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, is a sports focused cable television network. The network features sports talk shows, telecasts of events, both live and recorded, informative films, and other popular sports-related programs.
The History of an Innovative Network
The popular network launched on September 7, 1979 and began a new era in television with the advent of 24-hour coverage of sports events. Bill Rasmussen, fired from his job as Communications Director for the New England Whalers, his son Scott Rasmussen, and Ed Eagan, an Aetna insurance agent, founded the company. They chose Chet Simmons as President and CEO of ESPN. Simmons later went on to be the first commissioner of the United States Football League. Funding for the new network came from the Getty Oil Company and Stuart Evey. Walt Disney Company acquired Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 and became the parent company of ESPN.
Before the launch of ESPN, a dedicated sports network operating 24 hours a day was not even conceived in the imagination of the viewing public. The forward thinking founders put together a sports entertainment lineup that was unrivaled then and continues to be so decades later.
ESPN’s innovative programming has also been consistent and unusually resilient. The network’s flagship program Sports Center premiered with the network and the 50,000th episode aired in September 2012. Another popular and long-running program is Monday Night Countdown, debuting in 1993 with its original name NFL Prime Monday. ESPN bestowed the program’s new name in 1998.
The network has a number of sister channels, including ESPNU, dedicated to college athletics, and ESPN Plus, an American television program syndicator. Other sister networks include ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Films, ESPNews, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN on ABC, and Longhorn Network. Additionally, ESPN airs certain sporting events, such as some college football games, on ABC.
Popular ESPN Program Highlights
In addition to SportsCenter and Monday Countdown, ESPN features shows like Around the Horn, a sports commentary show hosted by Tony Reali, Pardon the Interruption, a fast-paced discussion of current sports topics by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. College football and basketball fans are enthusiastic when their campus is chosen as the site for College GameDay for the week. Morning listeners can get the scoop on the biggest sports stories every weekday morning from 6-10 a.m.
30 for 30 is a popular series of documentary films that premiered in October 2009 and chronicles 30 stories. Each film focuses on teams, people, and events in sports since the founding of ESPN in 1979. One notable film in the series is Pony Excess that chronicled the events leading up to the NCAA giving SMU the death penalty in football. Another film from the current season is Bo Knows Bo. In this autobiographical film, Bo Jackson talks about his college career playing both football and baseball, the events that led up to his decision to enter the MLB or NFL, and on to his career playing both sports simultaneously.
Viewers can find a wealth of information and programming on the ESPN website located at http://espn.go.com. ESPN recently released WatchESPN, an app allowing users to watch ESPN on mobile devices wherever they are.
ESPN has earned its title and slogan The Worldwide Leader in Sports, as more than 100 million US households enjoy watching ESPN, up from 1.3 million subscribers in 1979, the year of the network launch. Additionally, a great many countries throughout the world view ESPN in many languages. From its original 80 employees, the media giant ESPN now employs more than 6,000 people. John Skipper, the current president of ESPN, Inc. and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, has held the position since January 1, 2012. ESPN is held up by many people as a prime example of one of the most astounding business successes in recent times.