ESPN Milestones

ESPN Milestones

 

August 16, 1978  An around-the-clock sports network via satellite is conceived by Bill Rasmussen and his son, Scott. 
August 17, 1978  Property in Bristol, Conn., recommended and plans for construction for the base of operations is devised. 
February 22, 1979  Getty Oil Company agrees in principle to purchase 85 percent of ESPN. 
March 1,  1979  NCAA grants ESPN exclusive rights to televise athletic events, both live and on a delayed basis. 
March 21, 1979  United Cable TV is the first multiple system operator to sign an affiliate agreement with ESPN. 
May 20, 1979  Anheuser-Busch signs an advertising contract with ESPN, at $1.4M, the largest single buy in cable television history. 
September 7, 1979  ESPN launches at 7 p.m. ET. 
September 14, 1979  Prominent sports announcer Jim Simpson joins ESPN from NBC, providing instant credibility. 
December 19, 1979  ESPN televises its first NHL game, Washington at Hartford.   
Spring 1980  Programming such as Australian Rules Football, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Opening Round and the NFL Draft provide national media exposure. 
April 1983  ESPN begins distributing programming internationally. 
April 30, 1984  ABC completes the acquisition of ESPN from Getty.  Later, 20% is sold to Nabisco and later to Hearst. 
January 1987  ESPN airs the America’s Cup live from Australia; the overwhelming response proves the impact of cable. 
March 15, 1987  ESPN awarded NFL’s first cable contract; begins fall of ‘87. 
January 5, 1989  ESPN and Major League Baseball reached a four-year agreement to begin in 1990. 
March 31, 1989  ESPN International launches its first network, ESPN in Latin America. 
January 1, 1992  ESPN Radio launches. 
March 4, 1993  The first-ever ESPY Awards and the birth of The V Foundation. 
October 1, 1993  ESPN2 launches in 10 million homes. 
May 9, 1994  ESPN acquires Creative Sports (later combined with OCC, purchased in 1993, to form ESPN Regional Television). 
April 1, 1995  ESPNET SportsZone (now ESPN.com) launches. 
June 24 – July 1, 1995 The inaugural Extreme Games (later called X Games) are held in Rhode Island.  In 1997, the Winter X Games debut. 
February 9, 1996  The Walt Disney Company completes the acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. (which owns ESPN). 
November 1, 1996  ESPNEWS launches. 
March 11, 1998  ESPN The Magazine launches. 
August 2001  ESPN Broadband launches, a video service via a high-speed modem, offering a library of programming. Would become ESPN360.com in 2005. 
January 22, 2002  ESPN reaches an agreement for multimedia NBA coverage, becoming the first network to televise all four major professional sports-NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA. 
January 7, 2004  ESPN Deportes, a 24-hour, Spanish language sports network, launches. 
June 7, 2004  ESPN’s state-of-the-art Digital Center opens. 
March 4, 2005  ESPNU, a 24-hour network devoted to college sports, launches. 
September 1, 2007  ESPN360.com relaunches as the online home of live sporting events, offering more than 2500 in 12 months.  The name becomes ESPN3.com in 2010 and ESPN3 in 2011. 
April 6, 2009  The Los Angeles Production Center debuts as the home of the weekday 1 a.m. ET SportsCenter and more. The 129,000-square-foot facility has two studios. 
October 6, 2009  The critically acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series debuts with “Kings Ransom.” 
September 30, 2010  espnW is announced to launch in Spring 2011 (later moved to Dec. 6) – primarily a digital product suite including pc web, mobile web, mobile applications and social media to serve, inspire and inform the female athlete and fan. 
August 26, 2011  Longhorn Network launches. 
June 22, 2014  SportsCenter marks the opening of the 194,000-square-foot Digital Center 2 with five studios, home also to NFL programming, Outside the Lines and more. 
August 14, 2014  SEC Network launches in more than 60 million homes, including nine of the top 10 distributors, and a schedule of more than 1,000 live events in the first year including 45 football games, more than 100 men’s and 60 women’s basketball games, and 75 baseball games with hundreds more online. 
January 1, 2015  ESPN celebrates the New Year with its most-viewed day ever (a 6.5 rating); buoyed by College GameDay, the Cotton Bowl Classic, The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl; ESPN averaged 11,680,000 viewers.  The Sugar and Rose Bowls rank as cable’s biggest two audiences in history. 

The Outback Bowl is ESPN2’s biggest audience ever, an average of 6,400,000 viewers, based on a record 3.8 rating for Wisconsin’s overtime victory over Auburn. 

January 12, 2015  The first-ever College Football Playoff Championship – Ohio State 42-20 over Oregon – is the largest audience and highest rating in cable television history – an average of 33,395,000 viewers, based on an 18.2 rating
May 17, 2016  The Undefeated – the digital content platform exploring the intersection of sports, race and culture – launches.  It combines innovative long-form and short-form storytelling, original reporting and provocative commentary to enlighten and entertain African Americans, as well as sports fans seeking a deeper understanding of black athletes, culture and related issues. 
July 11-18, 2016  ESPN Films’ most ambitious project to date — O.J.: Made in America – receives universal acclaim. The 7.5-hour documentary from Peabody and Emmy-award-winning director Ezra Edelman depicts a defining cultural tale of modern America – a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence and the criminal justice system.  Almost a quarter of U.S. TV households tuned in across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 (41.3 million people).  Success on non-traditional platforms included more than 5.3 million downloads within 30 days on cable VOD (more than triple the transactions the entire ESPN VOD channel had ever delivered in any previous month), and 1.3 million unique devices consuming some portion on WatchESPN generating 234.1 million minutes. 
February 26, 2017  ESPN wins its first Oscar, in Best Documentary for O.J.- Made in America.  The 7.5-hour epic is the longest movie ever honored at the Academy Awards.   
March 5, 2018  Jimmy Pitaro is named President of ESPN.  Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media since 2016, he is ESPN’s eighth chief executive.   
April 12, 2018  ESPN+ launches within the redesigned and enhanced ESPN App.  ESPN+, with thousands of live events annually, plus original programming and an on-demand library including the “30 for 30” library, is the company’s first direct-to-consumer streaming service. 
May 23, 2018  UFC, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN announced that ESPN-branded media platforms starting in 2019 will be the exclusive digital and television home of the UFC in the U.S. with 42 live events annually. Thirty will feature a full card of 12 bouts.  This expands the rights to UFC on ESPN+ revealed earlier this month. 
November 30, 2018  ESPN and the ACC announced the ACC Network will launch on August 22, 2019.  The 24/7 network is poised to air 1,300 live events annually across its TV and digital offerings from around the conference’s 15 member schools and 27 sponsored sports. 
January 19, 2019  The first UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ – with prelims both on ESPN+ and ESPN and the main event on ESPN+ – airs from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., kicking off a new five-year rights agreement and spurring 568,000 new subscriptions to ESPN+ in the two days leading up to the fight. 
May 14, 2019  ESPN and Caesars Entertainment announced a collaboration to include an ESPN-branded studio at The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where sports betting-themed content will be created for linear, digital and social shows, including segments for ESPN’s sports betting-related show, Daily Wager.  Caesars’ data and branding will be integrated across ESPN TV and digital platforms. 
September 7, 2019  ESPN celebrates its 40th anniversary. 
September 30, 2019  In a multi-year agreement, ESPN+ will be the new U.S. home for the Bundesliga, Germany’s top domestic soccer league, starting in August 2020.  The pact covers more than 300 games in both English and Spanish, plus surround programming on ESPN+ and select games on linear networks. 
October 21, 2019  ESPN Daily debuts, a 20-minute, single-topic weekday morning podcast hosted by Mina Kimes. 
November 1, 2019  ESPN and Formula One announce a new agreement that will keep the FIA Formula One World Championship on ESPN and ABC, 2020 through 2022.  All F1 races will continue to air live on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC and all practice sessions, qualifying and races will air live and in replay across ESPN platforms.  As an additional element of the new deal, ESPN Deportes will serve as the exclusive Spanish-language home for all Formula 1 races in the U.S. 
March 19, 2020  The premiere episode of the highly anticipated The Last Dance about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls averages 6.3 million viewers, easily ESPN’s most-viewed documentary (followed by episode two, which averaged 5.8 million). It was the most-viewed telecast among adults 18-49 since sports halted in mid-March. The 10-part series averages 5.6 million and ranks as ESPN’s 10 most-viewed documentaries. 
April 23, 2020  The NFL Draft – held virtually from the homes of players, coaches and Commissioner Roger Goodell because of the pandemic and televised across ESPN, ABC, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes (all produced by ESPN) – averages 15.3 million households across ESPN, ABC, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network, up 36% from 2019 and a new Day One high.  The three-day Draft averages 8.2 million homes, up 34% vs. last year to a new record.   
August 11, 2020  ESPN wins eight Sports Emmys – the most of any network group – presented in a virtual online ceremony by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 
August 24, 2020  ESPN’s Las Vegas studio debuts at The LINQ Hotel + Experience.  It will serve as home to Daily Wager and other segments on SportsCenter and digital platforms. 
Sept. 19, 2020  The Last Dance wins an Emmy Award as Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction series at the Primetime Arts Emmy Awards.
Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, 2020 ESPN airs 16 MLB Wild Card playoff games (a new round created for the truncated season) in four days, including seven on September 30 and the first MLB action (three games) on ABC since the 1995 World Series.
November 9, 2020  ESPN+ expands its premium written content offering and daily studio show programming as the exclusive home for the live and replay telecasts of four signature ESPN Radio shows, a popular daily Spanish-language show and adding exclusive written content from more than 20 additional ESPN reporters and analysts.
December 10, 2020  ESPN and the SEC announce a 10-year landmark agreement starting in 2024-25 adding up to 15 premier football games including the SEC Football Championship, in addition to approximately eight marquee men’s basketball matchups each year across ESPN or ABC. Also, beginning with 2021-22, ESPN+ will carry select non-conference SEC football and men’s basketball games.
December 10, 2020  ESPN+ is now in 11.5 million homes.
March 10, 2021 The NHL returns to ESPN with a landmark seven-year television, streaming and media rights deal, taking the new partnership from the beginning of the 2021-22 season through the 2027-28 season.
March 18, 2021 The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Football League (NFL) have reached a wide-ranging, long-term agreement that will result in ABC/ESPN joining the Super Bowl rotation, additional playoff action, exclusive national ESPN+ matchups over the course of the agreement, significantly more regular-season contests including Monday Night Football, enhanced game quality, new schedule flexibility and more. 
May 13, 2021 ESPN and Major League Baseball announced a long-term, wide-ranging rights extension for a fully exclusive, marquee schedule including Opening Night; the Home Run Derby; the ability to simulcast games plus other programming on ESPN+; plus radio and Spanish-language rights. 
May 13, 2021 ESPN and LaLiga reach an expansive, long-term agreement that makes ESPN+ the new English- and Spanish-language home for hundreds of games and other programming from LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank in the United States for the next eight seasons (through 2028-29).  
July 9, 2021 ESPN and the AELTC announce a 12-year agreement to continue ESPN’s exclusive and extensive first-ballto-last ball coverage of Wimbledon from 2024 through 2035.  ABC will add live matches on the middle weekend of the tournament (starting in 2022) and ESPN+ will stream all courts and be the exclusive home of other content, including qualifying, films, classic matches and full-match replays. 
Sept. 2, 2021 ESPN announces the ESPN Edge Innovation Center, aiming to collaborate with other leaders in technology to explore how new technologies like 5G, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and mobile edge computing (MEC) can enable new ways for fans to experience sports. The ESPN Edge Innovation Center will include key partnerships in the categories of technology, consulting, connectivity and hardware. 
Sept. 13, 2021 Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli (aka, the ManningCast) debuts on ESPN2 as a complement to the traditional MNF telecast with former quarterback greats Peyton and Eli Manning with Baltimore at Las Vegas. An instant hit that averaged 1.6 million viewers, on 10 Mondays the duo watches the game and talks football with guests ranging from celebrities and sports stars from the NFL and other sports. 
 Oct. 13, 2021 The Walt Disney Company and the NFL reach a five-year rights agreement for ESPN to present the new Monday night Wild Card game beginning with the 2021 season.  The game telecast will be accompanied by Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli on ESPN2 and ESPN+. 
Nov. 10, 2021 ESPN+ is now in 17.1 million homes. 
Nov. 30, 2021 ACC Network will soon be added for Comcast’s Xfinity customers, giving fans of the Atlantic Coast Conference access to the multiplatform network. With the addition of Comcast, ACCN is now fully distributed with every major satellite, telco and digital provider across the country. 

 

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