In 2005, ESPN reached long-term, content-rich agreements with several key rightsholders and multi-year, multi-media distribution deals, advanced new technology applications, expanded Spanish-language services in the U.S., and grew networks and brand extensions overseas, all to enhance the company’s leadership position.
The programming agreements are highlighted by the move to ESPN in 2006 of sports television’s most honored franchise, the NFL’s Monday Night Football; the return of NASCAR to ABC and ESPN in 2007; an extension with Major League Baseball, featuring greater exclusivity; an agreement with FIFA for two men’s and two women’s World Cup events through 2014; a first-time deal to televise the Breeders Cup World Thoroughbred Championships; expanded U.S.-exclusive relationships with the Australian Open and NHRA, and NHL rights for ESPN Classic and new media.
NEW TECHNOLOGY & BUSINESSES
Continuing ESPN’s heritage of reaching sports fans through the newest technology, the last 12 months featured the debut of ESPN2 HD; the re-launch of ESPN360, a multidimensional broadband service featuring customizable sports content and high quality video; and preparations for the formal debut in February 2006 of Mobile ESPN, the first national U.S. wireless sports phone service provider.
Further diversifying ESPN’s array of businesses, ESPNU for college sports was launched in March, and ESPN Deportes expanded with a 24-hour radio network and the ESPN Deportes La Revista magazine. Also, ESPN International expanded ESPN’s presence beyondU.S.shores in television, multimedia initiatives and event management.
The year was also punctuated with other key developments: announcing plans for ESPN’s first significant Los Angeles presence – a 120,000-square foot production facility with an ESPN Zone; and increased consumer products, plus many awards and ratings and user records. Also, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, ESPN and ABC Sports combined to present a telethon raising funds for recovery wrapped around an unprecedented Monday Night Football “doubleheader” on ABC and ESPN.
With these programming announcements and technology initiatives at home and abroad, the integration of ABC Sports and ESPN, and the organization of departments into six clearly defined areas – content, technology, sales and marketing, international, finance and administration – the company is poised for future growth. In 2005, more people than ever watched ESPN’s four largest networks and they were viewed by as many as 190 million Americans 12 – 64 per quarter, 68% of the population.
“ESPN delivers a powerful combination – compelling content, innovative technology and worldwide distribution – to provide value to advertisers, affiliates and fans,” said George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports, and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks. “Our passion drives us to find new ways to entertain and inform our diverse audience, wherever and however sports are consumed.”
ESPN networks remain highly valued by affiliates, viewers and advertisers.
- Surveys of cable operators and subscribers by Beta Research Corp. ranked ESPN and ESPN2 the top two major ad-supported cable networks in perceived value. For the fifth consecutive year, operators ranked ESPN #1 in perceived value and in generating local ad sales.
- ESPN and ESPN2 set many viewership records:
—ESPN set a first-quarter record for 24-hour audience; ESPN2 did in first, third and fourth quarters – the latter its most-viewed quarter ever – and a record for the year
—ESPN’s most-viewed week, October 3 – 9, with MLB playoffs, college football and NFL programming boosting the 24-hour average to 1,461,000
—ESPN2’s highest and third-highest ratings: MLB playoff game (Chicago vs. Boston, 4.1) and Tennessee’s 30-27 OT victory over LSU (3.1) and its highest-rated month ever (November)
—NFL Draft – ESPN’s highest-rated (4.3). A record 43 million people tuned in over two days.
—Sunday Night Football remained ad-supported cable’s most-watched series.
—The ESPY Awards – record viewership (2,326,000 households)
—Baseball’s Division Series Playoffs – viewership records for both ESPN and ESPN2
—NBA Western Conference Finals – ESPN’s highest-rated Conference Finals (4.0)
—NCAA Softball World Series – decisive game was ESPN’s highest-rated softball game (1.8)
—Australian Open Women’s Final – ESPN2’s highest-rated tennis telecast (1.5)
—IRL – ESPN’s highest-rated race ever (1.1)
—Great Outdoors Games VI – averaged a record, 850,000 homes across ESPN and ABC
—Winter X Games Nine – averaged a record 677,000 households across ESPN and ABC
—NCAA Men’s Basketball – most-viewed season ever for both ESPN and ESPN2.
- ABC Sports continued its great sports television heritage; the NBA made ABC the top-rated network each night during the seven-game finals; college football ratings grew, boosted by the addition of the ACC Championship game; and the IRL showed tremendous audience growth, led by a 60% increase for the Indy 500. The Belmont Stakes joins the lineup next year.
- ESPN became one of the first two cable networks to pass 90 million homes.
- ESPN2’s distribution is nearly equal with 89 million.
- SportsCenter, the flagship program and the yardstick by which any sports news show is measured, continued to evolve and grow in popularity, highlighted by SportsCenter Across America: 50 States in 50 Days, a fun summer-long tour and celebration of sports nationwide.
- ESPN Original Entertainment continued to debut innovative programming, including the critically acclaimed movies Four Minutes and Codebreakers; ESPN2 weeknight shows Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith and ESPN Hollywood; and the first of three specials leading to the 2006 ESPN premiere of the popular boxing reality series The Contender.
- ESPN Classic now reaches 58 million homes and launched three new primetime shows – Classic Now, giving historic context to today’s sports stories, Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame and Who’s #1. Each quarter was its most-watched quarter ever.
- ESPNEWS is seen in 45 million homes, added new shows The Pulse, Monday Night NASCAR and Hockey Night and enjoyed its most-viewed year.
- ESPN HD was joined by ESPN2 HD in January and they combined to produce more than 450 events and – with MLB studio shows joining SportsCenter and NFL programs originating at ESPN’s digital broadcast center – 6000 hours of programming in high definition.
- ESPN Deportes expanded distribution, notably with service on DISH Network, and expanded into radio and print with ESPN Deportes Radio, the first Spanish-language sports radio network in the U.S., and ESPN Deportes La Revista, a monthly, Spanish-language ESPN The Magazine in key Hispanic markets. ESPNdeportes.com celebrated its 5th anniversary with a complete redesign.
- ESPNU debuted in March, reaches 7.5 million homes and with 300 live events has expanded ESPN’s collegiate offerings, including innovative companion shows alongside ESPN (NFL Draft, a college football telecast primarily from “SkyCam”). Production is based at the Charlotte headquarters of ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the nation’s largest syndicator of college sports programming, producing more than 740 events each year, in addition to operating events.
- ESPN PPV continued to provide viewers with more choice – hundreds of college football and basketball games, premier boxing matches, content from EOE and SportsCenter and instructional offerings – and affiliates with additional revenue opportunities.
- ESPN Radio is now heard on more than 300 full-time affiliates covering 85% of the country; 750 stations carry some ESPN programming, including the top 50 markets and 99 of the top 100.
- ESPN.com celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2005 and with usage peaking near 19 million visitors monthly has been the leading sports web site every year since launch. Fantasy Football was offered for free for the first time and realized triple-digit growth in registered players. Additionally, ESPN Insider premium content offerings have seen double-digit growth for the second straight year, with nearly 300,000 subscribers. The high-quality ESPN Motion video feature was re-launched in May, making nearly all video available to all users without a download.
- ESPN Publishing was formed, incorporating ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Books. ESPN The Magazine – with 1.85 million circulation – was on Adweek‘s Top 10 Hot List of mags for a fifth consecutive year, the only men’s offering ever to do so. A newsstand-only ESPN Fantasy Football was the top-selling title in the genre. ESPN Books released six titles in 2005: Bill Simmons’ New York Times’ bestseller Now I Can Die in Peace, Classic Wiley: A Lifetime of Players, Punchers, Punks & Prophets, The Best Hand I Ever Played (Steve Rosenbloom), Rules of the Red Rubber Ball (Kevin Carroll), The ESPN College Football Encyclopedia (Michael MacCambridge) and 2006 ESPN Sports Almanac.
- Brand Extensions continued to focus on creating products that enhance fans’ connection to sports and underscore ESPN’s innovation and authenticity in three main categories. Consumer Products launched several innovative games and toys, including ESPN Shot Block, Scene It? Sports Powered by ESPN and ESPN All Sports Trivia Challenge, and X Games-branded sporting goods were re-launched, featuring bikes and protective gear. Home Entertainment released The Brooklyn Dodgers: The Original America’s Team, Cinderella Man: The James J. Braddock Story, and Four Minutes, as well as launched Harold Reynolds Presents Baseball, a collection of seven instructional DVDs featuring MLB stars. Next year, Interactive Games will unveil new videogame sports titles with EA, covering baseball, football and boxing.
- ESPN360, the re-branded broadband service, reaches more than seven million homes, including national distribution with Verizon, and expanded its on-demand lineup of exclusive live games, unique behind-the-scenes coverage, and in-depth analysis from ESPN commentators.
- Mobile ESPN became available online in November at www.mobileespn.com, gearing up for the national retail launch in February. Via the Sanyo MVP, the service’s first handset, Mobile ESPN offers one-click access to personalized sports news and information, analysis, columns, fantasy team management, high-quality video and audio, ring tones, graphics and more. Mobile ESPN Publishing increased its distribution across all major domestic carriers, as well as internationally. It currently distributes content to more than 200 handsets, 30 carriers, 16 countries, 6 continents and 4 languages.
- SportsTicker renewed distribution deals with the NFL & NBA/WNBA and enhanced its international soccer offerings with Champions League & UEFA Cup coverage
- ESPN Zones attracted nearly five million people in 2005 to its eight locations for an unrivaled sports-themed experience of food and fun. In addition, the TVs inLas Vegas,New York, andWashington,D.C. were converted to high definition.
- ESPN International carries the flag for the ESPN brand to 194 countries and territories through a variety of businesses – 29 TV networks in 12 languages, plus radio, print, internet, wireless, consumer products, and event management. In 2005, ESPN International celebrated the anniversary of ESPN Brasil (10th), ESPNsoccernet.com (10th), ESPN Israel (5th), and ESPNdeportes.com (5th). Classic Sport Europe grew to 16 million homes in 40 countries and ESPN Latin America enjoyed record ratings. In April, the X Games returned toThailand to help raise funds for tsunami relief. The X Games debuted inSeoul and in the Middle East with an exhibition inDubai. Mobile content distribution grew to include wireless carriers inCanada, Latin America,Japan and theU.K.
- For the third straight year, ad execs voted ESPN #1 for brand image, providing creative marketing and promotion opportunities, desirable programming for advertising and audience demos.
- Winter X Games Nine in Colorado was watched by a record average of 677,000 households with primetime ratings up 33% and attendance was a record for the venue (fourth year). X Games 11, live for the first time overseas and on ESPN Deportes, debuted a nightly lifestyle show, X Center, and earned its biggest audience ever among teens.
- The 13th Annual ESPY Awards raised more than a million dollars for The V Foundation through the ESPY Golf Classic and another $200,000 with the inaugural ESPN Radio auction of 100 sports-themed items and experiences. Viewership was a record: 2,326,000 homes.
- The CITGO Bassmaster Classic, held for the first time in Pittsburgh, attracted more than 29,000 people, the most since ESPN purchased BASS. In 2006, the Classic will move from summer to February and is joined by a Women’s Bassmaster Tour. The Great Outdoor Games, held in a new venue, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, debuted new events, including ATV competitions. The audience was the biggest ever – an 850,000 homes across nine telecasts on ESPN and ABC.
- Team ESPN corporate outreach includes volunteerism, corporate giving and cause marketing. Among the company’s top initiatives, more than two million dollars was raised for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, for a total of $50 million since its 1993 launch, and the telethon for Hurricane Katrina relief solicited pledges for $5 million. In addition, Team ESPN continues to roll out ESPN Play Your Way, a fitness initiative to address youth obesity.
Jan. 6 ESPN2 HD launches with a college basketball tripleheader.
6 ESPN’s second scripted drama, TILT, debuts.
10 ESPN International launches ESPN Classic Sport in Belgium – the network is available now in 40 countries.
10 ESPN International announces an extension with the NBA to send up to 51 live games to Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, Pacific Rim andCaribbean.
11 ESPN360 broadband service is relaunched – multi-dimensional customized sports video content, including highlights, live games, extended interviews, sneak previews and premieres of EOE shows and video games
13 In a Beta Study of advertising executives, ESPN ranked #1 for a third straight year for having appealing demos, brand image and desirable programming, with ESPN2 ranked #2.
17 ESPN and Electronic Arts announce a long-term agreement for EA SPORTS games, including established EA SPORTS franchises enhanced by ESPN content and new games based on ESPN media properities.
28 Australian Open women’s final is ESPN2’s highest-rated tennis telecast (1.5).
23 ESPN is rated number one by cable operators perceived value and generating local ad sales for the fifth year in a row in Beta Research Corp.’s survey. ESPN Classic was second in perceived value among mid-sized networks.
28 ESPN Poker Club – a multi-faceted initiative – is announced, with an editorial section and game on ESPN.com, a wireless game and consumer products.
28 – Feb. 1 Winter X Games Nine are watched by a record average of 677,000 households with primetime ratings up 33%. Attendance sets anAspen record (fourth year).
March 4 ESPNU launches with a live edition of ESPNU College GameDay fromStillwater,Okla., followed by an Ohio Valley Conference men’s semifinal, Eastern Kentucky vs.SoutheastMissouriState.
6 In a TV first, ESPN2 continues coverage through national commercial breaks of the IndyCar race fromMiami via use of a split screen.
15 ESPNU and the NCAA announce an agreement for coverage of at least 10 sports’ post-seasons through 2013, supplementing ESPN/ESPN2.
16 ESPN HD is named Best DTV Satellite Programmer and Best Original DTV Material (for SportsCenter) at the Digital Television Pioneers Academy Awards.
24-27 The first-ever Thailand X Cup, a demonstration by 14 top X Games athletes, raises money for the tsunami relief efforts. They also visited 150 children atThailand’s largest orphanage.
April 1 ESPN.com marks its 10th anniversary, having been the leading sports site in terms of traffic every month of its 10 years.
18 ESPN and the NFL announce that Monday Night Football will move to ESPN in 2006 after 36 years on ABC. The eight-year agreement includes the NFL Draft, NFL PrimeTime, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes, mobile and video game rights
20 ESPN and the Army Athletic Association reach a five-year, multi-media agreement, with live television coverage of Army home football games and other events on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic or ESPN360.
23 ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft is the highest-rated ever, a 4.3. More than 43 million people tuned in during 18 hours over two days, a record.
23 ESPN Pay-Per-View’s first boxing offering, four quality fights for a moderate $29.95 price, presented with Main Events from Caesar’s Palace inLas Vegas.
25 ESPN.com announces that its Fantasy Football games will be free this fall.
27 ESPN and AEG finalize a five-year deal to keep the X Games in Los Angeles.
29 A multi-media, eight-year deal brings the Breeders’ Cup to ESPN in 2006.
May 3 Disney and ESPN Media Networks announce a new comprehensive initiative for affiliates to apply the Team ESPN’s Play Your Way program locally.
3 The eight Sports Emmy Awards won by ESPN and ABC Sports include a second straight for SportsCenter (daily studio show) and the Great Outdoor Games (live audio). Also, former ESPN President and ABC executive Chet Simmons receives the Lifetime Achievement Award.
19 ESPN International extends its agreement to televise the French Open to Latin America, the Middle East,Israel andNorth Africa through 2008.
26-29 Asian X Games Seven move toSeoul,South Korea, held in facilities from the 1988 Summer Olympics.
June 1 ESPN and the Discovery Channel become the first cable networks to be seen in 90 million homes.
8 The NCAA Women’s College World Series – Michigan beating UCLA 3-1 in the 10th inning of game three of the new best-of-three format – is ESPN’s highest rated and most-watched softball game (1.8 rating, 1.644 million households).
23 To enhance efficiency and bring greater value to constituencies, six non-production departments of ABC Sports are consolidated into ESPN – programming, marketing, communications, legal, research and finance.
26 ESPN Classic registers its most-watched quarter, breaking the record set in first quarter. Also, ESPNEWS reaches more viewers on a year-to-year basis for the 12th consecutive quarter (ever since the network had been measured for a year).
July 3 The Argent Mortgage 300 from Kansas Cityis ESPN’s highest-rated and most-watched IndyCar telecast (1.1 rating, 970,000 households), breaking records set just three weeks earlier, as fans follow the exploits of rookie Danica Patrick.
7-10 Great Outdoors Games VI — held in a new venue, Disney’s Wide World of Sports — debut new events, including ATV competitions. The audience is the biggest ever – an 850,000 homes across nine telecasts on ESPN and ABC.
13 The ESPY Awards, inLos Angeles with first-time host Matthew Perry, are seen by a record audience, 2,326,000 homes. The ESPY Golf Classic raises more than a million dollars for The V Foundation, with another $200,000 coming from the inaugural ESPN Radio auction of 100 sports-themed items and experiences.
17 SportsCenter Across America – 50 States in 50 Days – begins atFenwayPark (Yankees at Red Sox), ending September 5 inWashington,D.C.
25 ESPN and Major League Baseball Advanced Media announce an eight-year deal for video rights and more across ESPN.com, ESPNDeportes.com, ESPN360, Mobile ESPN, and ESPN’s wireless licensing business.
25 ESPN Deportes unveils Futbol a Football, a promotion with a $10 million prize, one of the largest giveaways in cable history. The winner of a drawing will try 40-yard soccer (futbol) and field goal (football) kicks at halftime of an NFL game.
26 ESPN’s Monday Night Football team for 2006 is introduced: Al Michaels, Joe Theismann, Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya.
28 ESPN Deportes La Revista debuts as the Spanish version of ESPN The Magazine with a cover story on the 101 most influential Latinos in sports. The monthly is distributed in top U.S. Hispanic markets.
29-31 The Bassmaster Classic is held inPittsburgh for the first time and more than 29,000 people attend the weigh-ins, the most since ESPN purchased BASS.
31 ESPN Classic finishes its most-viewed month ever, and ESPN2 enjoys its most-viewed July ever.
Aug. 4-7 X Games 11 in Los Angeles, televised live for the first time overseas and on ESPN Deportes, debuts a nightly lifestyle show, X Center, and earns its biggest audience ever among teens.
5 Keith Olbermann returns to ESPN, joining Dan Patrick on his afternoon radio show for one hour on Fridays. The role becomes daily November 28.
17 ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD and ABC HD will combine to present live coverage of all 64 matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup inGermany.
25 The college football season starts on ESPNU with Benedict at Morehouse in a Division II matchup, the first of nearly 450 games (in 260 telecast windows) on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ABC Sports, ERT, Game Plan and ESPN360.
Sept. 14 ESPN and Major League Baseball announce a new agreement through 2013 which includes increased exclusivity for TV, plus radio, Classic, Deportes, International, online and wireless rights.
19 ESPN announces a dramatic increase in its Los Angeles presence with a production facility and ESPN Zone to be opened in 2009 as part of an entertainment district developed by AEG adjacent to theSTAPLESCenter.
19 ESPN, ABC and the NFL present “Hurricane Relief Weekend” for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. A Monday Night Football doubleheader with a telethon featuring NFL and ABC celebrities raised $5 million in pledges.
21 A long-term agreement is finalized for multiple Disney and ESPN networks and services to be carried on Verizon’s FiOS TV, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD.
25 Third quarter is ESPN Classic’s most-viewed quarter ever and ESPN2’s most-viewed third quarter.
27 ESPN’s upcoming cell phone service is rebranded Mobile ESPN and a prototype is unveiled, to be produced in conjunction with SANYO, the Sanyo MVP.
30 Echostar’s DISH Network becomes the first national service to make ESPN Deportes available nationwide, in time for the extensive coverage of the NFL game inMexico City on October 2.
Oct. 2 ESPN and ESPN Deportes air first NFL regular-season game outside the U.S. –Arizona vs. S.F. inMexico City – with ESPN Deportes providing extensive on-site programming and production.
5 ESPN Deportes Radio launches, the first fulltime nationalU.S. Spanish-language sports network, with sports talk and events, highlighted by MLB and Mexican soccer.
4-9 Record audiences for Baseball’s Division Series Playoffs on ESPN and ESPN2 include ESPN2’s highest rating ever (4.1,Chicago vs. Boston, Game 3) and lead to ESPN’s most-viewed week ever (1,461,000 homes).
11 The Beta Research Corp.’s annual survey of digital subscribers, ESPNEWS and ESPN Classic received high scores among men in key categories – perceived value, favorite channel, reach, and importance to enjoyment of cable.
17 ESPN The Magazine’s cover of June 29, 1998 with Michael Jordan is #18 on a list of the top 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Editors.
Nov. 1 ESPN and the NHRA extend their exclusive multimedia deal through 2013.
2 ESPN and FIFA announce an agreement for exclusive English-language telecasts of the World Cup in 2010 (South Africa) and 2014 and the Women’s World Cup in 2007 (China) and 2011, plus rights for ESPN.com, ESPN 360, ESPN on Demand, Mobile ESPN and more.
6 Sunday Night Football earns a 9.1 rating forPhiladelphia at Washington, averaging 8,228,000 homes, the biggest cable television audience of 2005.
7 ESPN and the NHL announce an agreement covering rights for ESPN Classic and ESPN’s new media platforms, including highlights on Mobile ESPN.
9 ESPN The Magazine stories make headlines for a second consecutive issue – WNBA star Sheryl Swoops announcing she is gay, followed by an investigative report on steroids in Major League Baseball.
27 ESPN2 finishes its highest-rated month ever in both total day and prime time.
Dec. 6 ESPN and ESPN2 top all major networks in perceived value among network viewers in Beta Research Corp.’s annual survey of cable subscribers.
7 ESPN and NASCAR announce an eight-year, content-rich agreement beginning in 2007 for ABC Sports, ESPN’s networks, other outlets and new media.
7 ESPNU announces four charter sponsors: Allstate, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cisco and Energizer.
15 Mobile ESPN signs six category-exclusive advertising agreements, with Cisco Systems, Coors, General Motors, Hilton, Nike and Visa.
25 ESPN’s four most-widely distributed networks set a record for combined viewership for the year – 971,000 households during the average minute on a total-day basis. For fourth quarter, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic each enjoy their most-viewed quarter ever.