ESPN: A Biography
A relentless focus on what’s next and embracing emerging technology – rather than be disrupted by it – has defined every stage of ESPN’s 40+-year trajectory. What was initially conceived as simply a means of providing Connecticut sports to Connecticut sports fans became an American business success story of the highest magnitude with reach on every continent around the globe. Today, 41 years later, it’s hard to over-estimate the impact ESPN has had on the coverage of sports across all forms of media.
After launching in September 1979, ESPN slowly gained relevance, acquired increasingly attractive programming and quickly established a reputation for innovation. In that first year, ESPN aired the early rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the NFL Draft. There was also a concept new to TV: a studio show devoted completely to sports news and highlights, SportsCenter. It set the blueprint for the genre. Soon, the young upstart could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its more established network competitors.
National attention to ESPN reached unprecedented levels with the 1987 America’s Cup from Australia. The production expertise displayed in the highly decorated middle-of-the-night, live coverage in no small way contributed to ESPN being awarded the NFL’s first cable contract later that year. Major League Baseball would soon follow and ESPN was on its way.
Expanding Horizons with Brand Extensions, Owned Events
The first of many brand extensions was launched in 1992 – ESPN Radio. In rapid succession, several more linear networks, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine and owned events like The ESPYS and the X Games followed, demonstrating the power of ESPN’s spirit and brand identity.
Affirming its Leadership, Now and in the Future
More recently, that same focus on “getting there first” has led to ESPN creating leadership positions in social and digital media, and the launch of ESPN+, the industry’s leading sports streaming service. In many ways, the launch and success of ESPN+ is reminiscent of the early days of ESPN…utilizing technology, innovation and staying true to ESPN’s mission: Serve Sports Fans. Anytime. Anywhere.
With the recent announcements of long-term, landmark agreements with the SEC, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball – all of which include critical components for ESPN+ — ESPN is staying ahead of whatever is next in this ever-changing industry.