ESPN, Inc.: 1990 in Review

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ESPN, Inc.: 1990 in Review

For ESPN, 1990 marked the arrival of Major League Baseball, ushering in a new era of national television coverage of America’s pastime.  The year also featured the naming of Steven M. Bornstein as ESPN president and CEO; the renewal of the National Football League contract; steady growth both domestically and internationally; the acquisition of the America’s Cup television rights for 1992; and involvement in Earthwinds, a historic around-the-world manned balloon flight planned for the fall of 1991.

“The addition of Major League Baseball in 1990 made ESPN a stronger service than ever,” Bornstein said.  “We offer tremendous value 12 months a year to our viewers, affiliates and advertisers and look forward to continued growth in 1991.”

Highlights from 1990 follow:


ESPN’s inaugural season of Major League Baseball coverage, the largest undertaking in the history of television coverage of a sport, had an immediate impact on viewers, the sport, the network and its customers.  The 575-hour package provided viewers with:

  • 168 games, 155 editions of Baseball Tonight, more than 4,000 electronic cut-ins

Major League Baseball on ESPN led to:

  • a 60 percent rise in total viewership and 50 percent increase in ratings over the same time slots last year
  • 163 advertisers, 43 of which were not on the network in 1989
  • increased promotional and sales opportunities for the network’s more than 23,000 affiliates.


In addition to Major League Baseball, ESPN also expanded its commitment to outdoors and environmental programming.

  • Expedition Earth, a new 16-part adventure series, premiered.  One of the first shows featured the test flight for the “Earthwinds” global balloon flight.
  • ESPN expanded its Saturday morning outdoors block of programming and placed further emphasis in addressing environmental themes.
  • The network also has been running a series of public service announcements on environmental concerns.



  • 3.1 million American households were added in 1990
  • ESPN is currently seen in 57.2 million homes, 61.4% of American television households
  • ESPN will end the year as America’s largest cable network for the eighth straight year


  • ESPN programming is now available in 64 countries.
  • “ESPN International,” a sports network distributed by ESPN to 28 countries in Central and South America and the Pacific-rim region, expanded to 24-hours-a-day May 1.
  • ESPN helped launch Japan Sports Channel in March.


  • ESPN approximately doubled the size of its Broadcast Center in 1990 to accommodate the added demands of the network’s Major League Baseball coverage and other programming growth.


Among the awards ESPN won in 1990:

  • three Sports Emmy Awards, the most ever by the network
  • four ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) Awards
  • the National Sportscaster of the Year for Chris Berman, the first cable commentator to win the prestigious honor

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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