ESPN, Inc.: 2002 in Review

AnnouncementsYear in Review

ESPN, Inc.: 2002 in Review

In 2002, ESPN, Inc. enjoyed an exceptional year, highlighted by a 14% increase in ESPN’s ratings, the launch of its NBA coverage and numerous awards, including TV Guide naming ESPN “the hottest” basic cable network.  The company also looked to the future with new initiatives to maintain its position as the most popular destination for American sports fans and as a leader in technology.  On the average day, 45 million people interact with an ESPN network,, ESPN Radio or ESPN The Magazine.

“We are proud of the place ESPN holds in sports fans’ lives and appreciate their support of us,” said George Bodenheimer, ESPN President.  “In a highlight-packed year, we produced significant ratings growth, welcomed the NBA to ESPN’s line-up, and we continue to aggressively develop new services, programming and technology.”


  • With the return of the NBA, ESPN made television history – as the home to all four major professional leagues.  Early season ratings for the NBA’s Wednesday/Friday slots have increased 84%.  Other major series ratings increases: Major League Baseball, college football, and the NFL, the highest-rated series on ad-supported cable for a 16th year.  Special events – most shared with ESPN2 – also boosted ratings: Men’s World Cup soccer, French Open tennis, Women’s Final Four and the Little League World Series.  In studio production, SportsCenter saw ratings rise and televised its 25,000th edition in August, the most of any show in TV history, and Sunday NFL Countdown won its fifth Emmy Award.  The “This is SportsCenter” promos were named to the CTAM Hall of Fame.  ESPN Original Entertainment continued to break new ground with ESPN’s first two made-for-TV movies and ESPN’s first reality game show, Beg, Borrow & Deal, while Pardon the Interruption was an unqualified hit.  Women’s sports remained a focus, with contract extensions for LPGA and WNBA and award-winning programming relating to the 30th anniversary of Title IX.  The network continued to grow, now reaching 87 million households. 
  • ESPN2, hitting 85 million households and with enhanced programming, was watched by more viewers than ever.  Distribution of other domestic analog networks continued to climb – ESPN Classic reaches 47 million homes and won two of ESPN’s seven Emmy Awards for Dick Schaap’s Flashing Before My Eyes, and ESPNEWS topped the 40 million household plateau.  ESPN Regional Television, the nation’s leading distributor of college games, produced some 700 programs for local broadcast and cable outlets.  Digital network ESPN Today continued to grow via new distribution agreements, while ESPN VOD now includes 150 titles with many more planned and ESPNBroadband expanded with new offerings.
  • Two services were announced to debut in 2003 – ESPN HD, a high-definition simulcast of ESPN with 100 live events produced in hi-def, and ESPN Deportes, the Sunday night Spanish-language block which will expand to a 24-hour network.


  • ESPN Radio, the nation’s largest sports radio network, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2002 with 16 million listeners each week, 220 full-time affiliates and 700 overall, and is now heard in the top 50 markets. 
  •, the leading sports site, increased usage more than 60%, averaging more than 12 million unique users monthly, with a record-high of 15.4 million in October.  Launched ESPNMotion video and live webcasts. 
  • ESPN The Magazine continued to grow, setting a new subscriber base of 1.65 million for January 2003.
  • SportsTicker extended deals with major clients, expanded its wireless presence, signed a video games agreement with EA Sports and launched SportsWebStream – content and web development and hosting. 


  • The Winter X Games VI and X Games VIII achieved record audiences, on tv and on site.  ESPN’s Ultimate X, a large-format movie produced with Touchstone Pictures, was released; the inaugural Latin X Games were held in Rio de Janeiro; the X Games announced a move to Los Angeles for 2003-04.
  • The 10th Annual ESPY Awards moved to a new time of year and new venue, Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.
  • ESPN Outdoors doubled attendance and increased ratings for the Great Outdoor Games and generated growth among tournament audiences for B.A.S.S., notably the sports top event, the BASSMASTER Classic.
  • The Jimmy V Women’s Basketball Classic and the Hawaii Bowl were created.


  • ESPN International – 25 networks in 11 languages – launched its first ESPN-branded networks in Europe —  ESPN Classic Sport in France and in Italy, and a second network, ESPN+, serving Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.  It also launched on Australia’s Foxtel and expanded its radio presence in Latin America.


  • ESPN Enterprises unveiled new book titles with Hyperion and together with Disney Interactive and Sega Sports the first of six sports games — “NFL2K3, Powered by ESPN.”  It won “Best Sports Game” at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.  Also, ESPN entered the field of sports instruction, partnering with the Jim Flick Golf teaching programs to create the ESPN Golf Schools which debut in January 2003.


  • ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales was voted first among networks by clients for its innovative sales and marketing support capabilities and held the first-ever “sports up front” presentation in October.  Among cable affiliates, operators again selected ESPN number one in perceived value, and ESPN maintained its lead among basic cable networks in affiliate, national and local advertising revenue.



Jan.              ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC account for 43% of national sports TV viewing in 2001, led by ESPN’s 23%.  The networks’ performance was even stronger among the key group of men 18-34, with 50% of their viewing.  ESPN led that group with 32%.

              1      ESPN The Magazine raises its rate base to 1.5 million.

              1      ESPN Radio celebrates its 10th anniversary.  In 2002, the network adds stations giving it 700 total – including coverage in the top 50 markets – and 210 fulltime.       

              2      ESPN, ABC Sports reach a multi-year agreement for the live telecast of MLS matches, FIFA Men’s World Cups in 2002 and 2006 and the Women’s World Cup in 2003.

              6      Sunday Night Football concludes its 15th season as basic cable’s most-watched series.

            16      Chris Berman is named the winner of The Maxwell Football Club’s Reds Bagnell Award for contributions to the sport.  Later this month, he is named Sportscaster of the Year for the sixth time by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

     17-20       Winter X Games VI is the most successful to date – increased attendance at the new  Aspen, Colo. venue and viewership records (Feb. 1-5):  ESPN’s highest-rated Winter X telecast ever (1.04 on Feb. 3) and ESPN2’s two-most-viewed Winter X telecasts.

            22      ESPN, ABC and the NBA finalize a six-year agreement beginning in 2002-03 to televise more than 100 regular- and post-season games per year, including the NBA Finals on ABC Sports.  The wide-ranging agreement provides for coverage on multiple television networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS), ESPN Radio and, as well as emerging technologies such as video on demand, interactive TV, broadband and video game development.

            22      ESPN topped all cable networks in Beta Research’s annual survey of cable operators, ranking first in nearly every question, including subscriber acquisition,  retention, importance to local ad sales and perceived value, with ESPN2 third.

            29      ESPN President George Bodenheimer named Sports Industrialist of the Year by The Sports Business Daily.

Feb.      4      ESPN Radio in Latin America expands, adding a new affiliate in Argentina and its first-ever affiliate in Mexico.  Later in the year, it expands into Venezuela.

            12      ESPN wins three Gracie Awards, given by the American Women in Radio and Television, for programming by, for and about women.

            13      ESPN programs are honored by the New York Festival Awards, highlighted by Flashing Before My Eyes, the adaptation of Dick Schaap’s autobiography, receiving the Grand Award as the most outstanding entry in all 20 documentary categories.

March   4      ESPN Classic Sport in France debuts, the first ESPN-branded network in Europe. 

              5      For the second straight year, ESPN The Magazine was named to ADWEEK’s Top 10 Hot List (ranking fourth), recognizing business success among consumer magazines.

            12      ESPN’s first original motion picture, A Season on the Brink, earns a 4.0 combined ESPN/ESPN2 rating and is the most-viewed program on cable that night.  With the reairs at midnight, 16.7 million people watch some portion of the film.

            12      ESPN televises an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game, the “65 vs. 64” Opening Round contest between Siena and Alcorn St., for the first time since 1990.

            12      ESPN and the LPGA announce a multi-year extension for up to 12 events annually.

            21      ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales was voted first among networks by clients for its innovative sales and marketing support capabilities in a survey by The Jack Myers Report.

            31      The NCAA Women’s Basketball championship is seen in 3.487 million homes, more than any basketball game in ESPN history – 5,349 games in 23 seasons.

            31      The Major League Baseball season begins on ESPN2, with five games the next day on ESPN/ESPN2.  The expanded schedule – 156 games – adds Monday night and Wednesday afternoon games, the only national weekday afternoon telecasts.

April    16      ESPN ranks tied for first among male cable subscribers as their favorite cable network with ESPN2 ranked fifth.

            23      ESPN wins seven Sports Emmy Awards.  Of four for EOE projects, two were for Dick Schaap: Flashing Before My EyesSunday NFL Countdown won its fifth Emmy and MLB telecasts’ “K Zone” won ESPN’s ninth for Innovative Technical Achievement.

            24      EXPN, Action Sports on Demand is announced, the first broadband and on-demand subscription service, centering on the X Games franchise and to debut in 2003.

May       1      ESPN extends coverage of Triple Crown programming, two major racing series and special event programming through 2008, via agreement with Triple Crown Productions and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

              1      ESPN The Magazine is one of five finalists for the prestigious National Magazine Award for General Excellence, given by the American Society of Magazine Editors. 

              9      ESPN teams with SEGA Sports to make its video games more realistic with features from ESPN telecasts.  The first offering, SEGA Sports NFL 2K3 Powered by ESPN, is cited the Game Critics Awards’ Best Sports Game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo

            10      ESPN’s first big screen feature film, ESPN’s Ultimate X, is released by ESPN and Touchstone Pictures exclusively in IMAX® Theatres and Large Format Cinemas.  It was filmed at X Games VII.

            14      ESPN International launches ESPN+ (pronounced “ESPN más”), its second network serving Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, complementing ESPN Latin America’s international sports with a strong line-up of local and regional offerings.

            15      ESPN and Hyperion release The Answer Guy, 65 humorous and highly anecdotal answers to perplexing, long-time questions in sports complied from the column of the same name in ESPN The Magazine and many never-before-seen columns.

            26      “UmpireCam” debuts on Major League Baseball, worn by Matt Hollowell behind the plate in the Yankees at Red Sox telecast.  This follows this season’s use of mikes on MLB players – usually a catcher and often used with MaskCam.

27-June 9    ESPN and ESPN2 begin 80.5 hours from the French Open, including 56 live hours and programming every day of the tournament.  The Grand Slam, on ESPN for the first time since 1993, achieves the two largest cable audiences in the event’s history.

            28      X Games Global Championship announced.  The new annual team event featuring international teams and both summer and winter events will debut in in San Antonio and Whistler, British Colombia, Canada in May 2003.

31-June 30  ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC present all 64 games of the FIFA World Cup – 58 live on ESPN or ESPN2 – from South Korea/Japan.  ESPN’s audience is 39% higher – and ESPN2’s 52% higher – than the 1998 event.  U.S. – Germany is ESPN’s most-viewed second-quarter show ever (3.77 million homes, 4.36 rating).

June   18      At the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby Awards, wins the award for sports and the People’s Voice Award.  The awards are chosen by critics and users, respectively.

         21-23   Women and Sports Weekend, on the 30th anniversary of Title IX, includes special programming, highlighted by a live “town meeting” with experts discussing the impact of Title IX and the current state of women’s athletics.

         24  ESPN is named the 2002 recipient of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Media Excellence Award for Broadcast Media (TV, radio and Internet).

            30      June is ESPN2’s most-viewed month ever and ESPN’s most-viewed June ever.

July       1      ESPN Classic Sport debuts in Italy.

10        The 10th annual ESPY Awards at a new site – Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre – and in a new time of year and includes new categories.  The emotional highlight is the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, given posthumously to four United Flight 93 passengers who died Sept. 11.

        11-14    The third annual Great Outdoor Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. enjoy nearly twice last year’s attendance and ESPN’s ratings are up 15%, ESPN2’s 42%.

         16  The long-running promotional campaign “This is SportsCenter” is named to the CTAM Hall of Fame, which honors the finest industry marketing campaigns.

         23  ESPN reveals The ESPN 100 – a list of the most important 100 athletes, moments, coaches, trends, games, outrages and thrills of the past year in sports. The list was presented in an EOE program, in ESPN The Magazine and on

         25  ESPN The Magazine and debuted SportsNation – an in-depth look into the minds of sports fans nationally and regionally by state and city. SportsNation, created through extensive surveys, is now a permanent section on

        25-27    The audience for the CITGO BASSMASTERS Classic in Birmingham, Ala. is 32% larger than last year’s first-ever three-day coverage of bass fishing’s biggest event.

Aug. 10-24  The Little League World Series sets viewership records.  It was the most-watched ever for ESPN and for ESPN2, setting individual game ratings records as well.

        17-22    X Games VIII is the most-watched in event history – 63 million people watched on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, 37% more than 2001.  Daily attendance was up 13%.

            25      SportsCenter airs its 25,000th live edition, more than any show in television history, and is seen by more than 11.5 million viewers.

Sept.     1      ESPN launches on Foxtel in Australia, making the network available to virtually all cable subscribers in Australia for the first time.

              5      The historic first-ever primetime NFL opener earns ESPN’s highest rating (9.36) since December 5, 1999 and features the regular-season debut of SkyCam.

              5      A major agreement between Mazda and ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales launches.  The deal is emblematic of the unique, multi-faceted sponsorship opportunities offered to clients and includes TV (Sunday and Monday Night Football), ESPN Radio, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Zone and ESPN The Truck.

              8      The NFL’s Houston Texans debut, receiving a 9.57 rating, ESPN’s highest since Dec. 3, 1995 and the fifth biggest audience in cable history.  The Texans’ 19-7 victory over Dallas is just the second time an expansion team has won its first game.  After the game, SportsCenter receives its biggest audience ever – 3,495,000 homes.

            2-8    ESPN’s most-viewed Nielsen week in primetime, an average of 2,943,000 homes.

              9      ESPN Original Entertainment debuts outdoors programming in primetime on ESPN2, headlined by The New American Sportsman.

            17      Beg, Borrow & Deal debuts, ESPN’s first reality game show, with two teams of four people racing across country while attempting sports-related tasks.

            23      ESPN Deportes, a full-time Spanish-language U.S. network, is announced, to launch  in the third quarter of 2003. 

            25      ESPN HD, a high-definition simulcast service of ESPN using the 720p format and featuring 100 live telecasts produced in HDTV, is announced, to launch April 2003.

            29      ESPN’s third quarter ratings are up 24% for total day and 28% in primetime.

Oct.     14 launches ESPNMotion – an innovative feature allowing broadband users to view high-quality video on the site’s home page automatically each day.  This month, sets a new usage record – 15.4 million unique visitors.

            15 is awarded the “WiredKids Best of the Web Award” by,  voted on by children nationwide and recognizing’s popularity among kids.  

            15      ESPN’s Women and Sports Weekend receives an EPIC (Enhancing Perceptions in Culture) Award Honorable Mention from The White House Project.

            29      ESPN ABC Customer Marketing and Sales hosts the first-ever Sports Upfront, in which five sports commissioners joined a roundtable discussion with nearly 700 industry executives in attendance.

            30      The NBA returns to ESPN after 18 years.  Production enhancements include Free Flight (camera above the court), FloorCam (camera in the court) and super slo-mo above-the-rim cameras.

            31      Pardon the Interruption receives its highest rating, 1.08, and in October averaged a 0.73, nearly double (up 92% from 0.38) its first few weeks a year earlier.

Nov.      2      ESPN announces two initiatives to debut in 2003 – the ESPN National Golf Challenge and the ESPN Golf Schools.  The Challenge, a competition among two-person teams of amateurs, will hold national finals the day before The ESPY Awards.  The Schools will be run in conjunction with the Jim Flick Golf teaching programs. 

              2 presents its first live event webcast – Miami at Rutgers – followed by BYU at Utah Nov. 23.

              6      ESPN and Hyperion publish The Gospel According to ESPN: Saints, Saviors, and Sinners, a collection of essays, illustrations and photographs looking at the power sports wields as the ultimate American secular religion.

            16      College GameDay makes its first trip to a Division 1-AA football game – Harvard at Penn with the Ivy League Championship at stake – and the show receives its biggest audience ever, 1.524 million homes, based on a 1.75 rating.

            24      The inaugural Jimmy V Women’s Basketball Classic is held in Raleigh, N.C., two games including the top three-ranked teams, raising funds for The V Foundation.

            30      TV Guide names ESPN the hottest network on basic cable, citing “a keen knowledge of its target audience and an ability to deliver the right personalities and programming to those viewers… scored high not only in ratings and revenue, but also in such subjective areas as quality of programming and willingness to take risks.”

Dec.      3      The X Games Skatepark opens in Dallas, the third this year and fourth overall, offering public facilities for skateboarding, bike stunt riding (BMX) and in-line skating.

            14      ESPN airs its second original, made-for-television movie, The Junction Boys starring Tom Berenger as Texas A&M Coach Bear Bryant in 1954.

            18      The GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. is ESPN2’s most-watched program ever – an average of 1.926 million households, based on a 2.28 rating.  The telecast helps propel ESPN2 to its most-viewed week ever in primetime, averaging 768,000 homes.

            25      The inaugural Hawaii Bowl, created and operated by ESPN Regional Television, is held in Honolulu.  Tulane defeats Hawaii 36-28.

            31      ESPN’s 2002 ratings are up 14% vs. 2001, with a 15% increase in primetime.


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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