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Arledge created MNF, Wide World of Sports
ABC Sports Online

It is with great sadness that ABC News reports that Roone Arledge, the Chairman of ABC News, and longtime President of ABC News and ABC Sports, died Dec. 5 in New York City of complications from cancer at the age of 71.

Roone Arledge
Roone Arledge, with Joe Namath (left) and Frank Gifford, helped make Monday Night Football an institution.
Arledge was widely regarded as one of the most innovative people ever to work in the television broadcast medium. As former president of ABC News, and previously, as president of ABC Sports, Mr. Arledge brought extraordinary advances and conceptual changes to the television industry. After nearly 20 years as its president, Mr. Arledge was promoted to chairman of ABC News in March 1997.

"Roone Arledge revolutionized television and with it the way people see and understand the world," said ABC News President David L. Westin. "A true creator, Roone invented many of television's most enduring and important programs, all the while fostering the brilliant careers of generations of the most talented men and women to work in front of or behind a television camera. His ability to broadcast the essential and unfolding drama in all human situations - from the gridiron to the world's stage -- transformed not only sports and news but all of us who watched. He was our leader and our friend and we will miss his passion and his will to make us all better than we were."

In 1990, Life magazine asked historians, critics and scholars to select the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century." Among those named as Americans "who ought to be in the history books" was Roone Arledge. In 1994, when Sports Illustrated magazine selected its "40 for the Ages" -- "the 40 individuals who have most significantly altered or elevated the world of sports in the last four decades" -- Roone Arledge ranked number three, behind only Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.

Since 1977, when Mr. Arledge was named president, ABC News has become broadcasting's most highly regarded news organization, through innovative news programming and a bold commitment of resources to both domestic and international news coverage. In his nearly two decades at the helm of ABC News, Mr. Arledge created some of the most critically acclaimed and enduring news programs in television history.

Prior to his appointment as head of the news division, Mr. Arledge was president of ABC Sports from 1968 until 1986. During his tenure, he introduced virtually all state-of-the-art technologies to sports programming, including instant replays, slow motion, advanced graphics, as well as the introduction of journalistic values and personalization of athletes to sports broadcasting. ABC Sports was synonymous with the Olympics under Mr. Arledge, who personally produced all ten ABC Olympic broadcasts. He was the first television executive and one of the very few Americans to receive the Medal of the Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee. In 1989, he was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame.

Mr. Arledge was a dominant force in improving the substance and direction of news and sports programming. His innovations include:

  • "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings."

  • "Nightline," the first network news program in the late-evening time period and a testament to Mr. Arledge's belief that a demand existed for late-evening news and information. In its 22-year history, "Nightline," anchored by Ted Koppel, has won every major award in broadcast journalism.

  • "20/20," the popular newsmagazine program anchored by Barbara Walters and John Miller, has flourished in primetime for 22 years and received more than 200 journalism awards.

  • "PrimeTime Live," the news division's second hour-long, primetime news broadcast, then anchored by Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson (now anchored by Sawyer and Charles Gibson), earned a reputation for hard-hitting investigations -- garnering an unprecedented four Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards for distinguished investigative reporting.

  • "This Week" has set the standard in Sunday news programming since it premiered in 1981. Critically acclaimed as a dynamic and innovative contrast to traditional Sunday morning news programming, the broadcast has received numerous journalistic honors, including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award.

  • "ABC's Wide World of Sports," the most popular, most honored, and longest-running sports anthology series in television history.

  • ABC's NFL "Monday Night Football," television's longest-running, most successful primetime sports series, a program that changed the viewing habits of a nation.

    A 37-time Emmy Award-winner, Mr. Arledge was recognized for his enormous contributions to the broadcasting medium with nearly every major award in television. In 1990, Mr. Arledge was honored with induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. He was the recipient of the Gold Medal Award from the International Radio and Television Society, as well as four George Foster Peabody Awards -- the broadcast industry's highest honor. Mr. Arledge received his most recent Peabody Award, a personal award, for bringing ABC to the forefront in news coverage; for his personal commitment to high ethical standards; for his leadership within ABC and the television industry; and for his outstanding contributions to the Olympic Games.

    Under his leadership, ABC News received nearly 20 Peabody Awards. In 1995, ABC News became the first television network news organization ever to be honored for overall excellence with the prestigious Gold Baton from the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards. The duPont Awards' highest honor was presented to ABC News "for the depth and range of its news coverage, producing, in a single year, outstanding television journalism in various programs and in all forms."

    On Sept. 10, 2002, Mr. Arledge was awarded the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). In 1998, the Center for Communication honored Mr. Arledge with its Communication Award and in 1995, Mr. Arledge was honored by the American Museum of the Moving Image, for his "unique vision and extraordinary achievements in a rapidly changing media industry." Mr. Arledge also received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Boston University for his accomplishments in raising the industry standard for television news coverage, and an honorary doctorate of law from Wake Forest University. His broadcasting honors include the University of Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism; two Christopher Awards; the Broadcast Pioneers Award; the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Journalism Association of the University of Southern California; the Man of the Year Award from NATPE; and the Founders Award from the ATAS Institute. In 1991, Mr. Arledge was inducted into Broadcasting and Cable Magazine's Hall of Fame.

    Mr. Arledge is survived by his wife, Gigi Shaw Arledge, and his children from a previous marriage, Roone Arledge Jr, Susan Weston, Betsey Arledge and Patricia Looney.

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    Monday Night Football creator Arledge dies