ESPN, Inc.: 1988 in Review

AnnouncementsYear in Review

ESPN, Inc.: 1988 in Review


1988, ESPN continued to expand and enhance its lineup of exclusive sports programming and remained America’s largest cable network.

“It was another record year for ESPN in 1988,” said Roger L. Werner Jr., who was named ESPN president and chief executive officer in August.  “Our employees are unsurpassed in their dedication and creativity, and it shows in our on-air product and in the quality of our relationships with cable customers, advertisers and viewers.”

The total of live and original programming hours televised during the year was increased to a record-breaking 4,348, more than double the amount of the three broadcast network sports divisions’ combined.

A list of the major accomplishments of 1988 follows.

New Events Covered

The NFL Pro Bowl, 24 Hours of LeMans, the Dodge Big Apple NIT (with the post-season NIT to come in 1989), the Triple-A All-Star Game, Major League Baseball’s tour of Japan, the Mazda Gator Bowl (Jan. 1, 1989) the All American Bowl, Ivy League football and many others.

New Series

Major League Baseball Magazine, NFL Trivia Game, Boardwalk and Baseball’s Super Bowl of Sports Trivia, The Sports Reporters, Basic Training Workout, Bodyshaping with Cory Everson, Great American Events, Lighter Side of Sports, Sunkist K.I.D.S., Budweiser Thoroughbred Digest and MotorWeek Illustrated.

Expanded Series

Many existing sports series were greatly expanded, including NCAA basketball and “Championship Week,” auto racing, skiing, cycling, high school sports and bodybuilding.

SportsCenter Highlights

SportsCenter reached new plateaus, including its 10,000th show on December 2.  On June 27, the results of the Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks fight were reported almost instantly, followed by exclusive color photos of the knockdown.  SportsCenter also provided live news coverage of all the major events of the year, including the Winter and Summer Olympics, the Wayne Gretzky trade and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, where Pete Rose and Ray Fosse were united for the first time since their collision in the 1970 game.

Additional Achievements

Other achievements:  dramatic increase in ratings for NFL GameDay and NFL PrimeTime; NFL production refinements including a telestrator; and more sophisticated on-board cameras (which could pan and tilt) enhanced the America’s Cup coverage.


ESPN reached the peak of television honors in winning a Sports Emmy Award — cable’s first Emmy — in the graphics category for the NCAA basketball open.  Also, ESPN won three ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) Awards in January for 1987 and received 12 ACE nominations in November for 1988.  ESPN’s “Budweiser Racing Across America” thoroughbred series was awarded the 1988 Eclipse Aware for national television achievement, the sport’s most prestigious honor.

Corporate Accomplishments

ESPN has greatly expanded its overseas distribution, serving television outlets in over 40 countries.  ESPN’s home video sales tripled in 1988 as the titles have increased from nine to about 25.  In addition to instructional tapes, entertainment (“America’s Cup ‘88;” “Turning on the Power,” a truck and tractor highlights tape; etc.) and exercise videos are now included.

ESPN Today

ESPN is now seen in just under 50 million homes, 55% of American television households.  This represents a 10% increase over a year ago.  The network is carried on more than 20,000 affiliates nationwide and lists over 700 national advertisers.  ESPN looks forward to another outstanding year in 1989 when the network will celebrate its 10th birthday on September 7.


Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
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