ESPN Anniversary logo
 Monday, September 6
Looking back, back, back ...
  • Bill Rasmussen, ESPN founder, hosts press conference in Plainville, Conn. to announce preliminary plans for sports television network (June 26).
  • Bristol, Conn. site recommended and plans for construction of base of operations are devised (August 17).
  • RCA awards ESPN Satcom I satellite positions (Sept. 20).

    The sets weren't as flashy, but the commentary was just as good.


  • Getty Oil purchases 85 percent of ESPN (Feb. 22).
  • The NCAA grants ESPN exclusive rights to telecast collegiate events (March 1).
  • Anheuser-Busch signs the largest advertising contract in the history of cable television with ESPN (May 30).
  • ESPN is launched at 7 p.m. ET across the country with airing of SportsCenter (Sept. 7).
  • Prominent sports announcer Jim Simpson joins ESPN from NBC, lending instant credibility to the fledgling network (Sept. 14).
  • ESPN televises first NHL game (Washington at Hartford Dec.19).


  • ESPN televises 23 NCAA Basketball Tournament games (March).
  • ESPN televises live the NFL Draft (April 29).
  • Continuous round-the-clock telecasts begin (Sept. 1).
  • Subscriber count climbs to more than 10 million homes (May 31).
  • Getty and ABC Video announce letter of intent for pay sports venture involving ESPN; deal also involves supplementary coverage by ESPN of various events from ABC and an option for ABC to acquire 10 percent of ESPN (Sept. 23).
  • ESPN's first flag-to-flag coverage of a NASCAR race (Nov. 8).


  • ESPN and the NBA agree to a two-year deal (January 30).
  • ESPN becomes the first network to televise every round of a PGA Tour event, the USF&G from New Orleans (April 22-26).
  • ESPN President Chester Simmons leaves ESPN to become the first commissioner of the USFL and is succeeded by J. William Grimes (June 14).
  • ESPN provides coverage of the John McEnroe-Mats Wilander Davis Cup match that lasted 9:30, the longest live sports telecast in national television history (July 11).


  • ESPN televises the first live professional football game on cable, the USFL's Birmingham against Michigan (March 7).
  • ESPN begins distributing programming internationally (April).
  • ESPN interrupts scheduled programming for the first time to provide coverage of the seventh race of the America's Cup (Sept. 26).
  • ESPN becomes the largest cable network, reaching 28.5 million homes (Oct. 1).


  • ABC purchases 15% of ESPN from Getty Oil and is given the option to obtain as much as 49% by 1986 (Jan. 2).
  • Getty and Texaco merge, allowing ABC to purchase the remaining 85% of ESPN (Jan. 8).
  • ABC Video Enterprises finalizes acquisition of ESPN (June 18).
  • ESPN awarded its first live college football agreement, 15 primetime College Football Association games (July 25).
  • ABC sells 20% of ESPN to Nabisco (Sept. 11).
  • BYU earns the national title on ESPN with its win in the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 21).
  • ESPN debuts in Hawaii and becomes available in all 50 states (Dec. 31).

    SportsCenter: 1980's style.


  • New logo and new corporate name -- ESPN, Inc.-- adopted (Feb. 4).
  • Georgetown/St.John's college basketball game becomes the network's highest-rated national telecast, reaching 2.9 million homes (Feb. 27).
  • ESPN signs a three-year deal with the NHL (July 25).
  • "28/58" score update debuts (July 26).


  • Expanded coverage of post-season college basketball conference tournaments (later called "Championship Week") features 27 games and provides electronic cut-ins to 45 other games (March 13).
  • Extensive Stanley Cup playoff coverage begins, featuring 35 games in 50 days, including Stanley Cup Finals. Network utilizes electronic cut-ins, cutting to other live games 115 times, plus 80 times on tape (April 9).


  • ESPN provides groundbreaking, innovative coverage of the America's Cup from Australia; overwhelming public and media reaction proves impact of cable and ESPN (Jan.).
  • NFL awards ESPN the first cable television agreement, featuring 13 telecasts and the Pro Bowl (March 15).
  • NY Islanders at Washington Capitals playoff game goes into four overtimes and becomes the longest televised game in NHL history. ESPN provides six-and-one-half hours of live coverage from start to finish (April 18).
    ESPN becomes the first cable network to achieve 50% penetration in the American television market, reaching 43.7 million homes (July 23).


  • Roger L. Werner succeeds Bill Grimes as President and CEO of ESPN (August 17).
  • ESPN's 1987-88 NCAA Basketball open earned ESPN a Sports Emmy award in its first year of eligibility. This was the first Emmy ever received by a cable network (July 13).
  • ESPN begins 48-game college football schedule - the most games ever on national television (Sept. 1).
  • ESPN airs its 10,000th SportsCenter, the most televised cable program in history (Dec. 2).


  • ESPN and Major League Baseball agree to a four-year, $400 million contract beginning in 1990. ESPN will televise 175 games each season (Jan. 5).
  • ESPN International debuts live service -- to Latin America (March).
  • ESPN celebrates 10th anniversary with a gala and a 90-minute special (Sept. 7).
  • SportsCenter provides first live national reports from the earthquake at the Oakland-San Francisco World Series (Oct. 17).


  • Outside the Lines premieres (May 7).
  • Steve Bornstein is named President and CEO of ESPN, replacing Roger Werner (Sept. 10).
  • The Hearst Corporation purchases RJR/Nabisco's 20% share in ESPN (Nov. 8).


  • ESPN chronicles Nolan Ryan's seventh career no-hitter with live cut-ins. Ryan's no-hitter is the first of three televised by the network (May 1).
  • ESPN finalizes its agreement for majority interest in The European Sports Network (Sept. 23).
  • ESPN returns to an all-sports format when the network replaces its morning business news program Nation's Business Today with re-airs of SportsCenter (Sept. 30).


  • ESPN Radio Network is launched featuring 16 hours a week of sports news and information (Jan. 1).
  • A new look "Big Monday" debuts with Big East, Big Eight and Big West tripleheaders. Big Ten games are now seen on Tuesdays preceding SEC contests (Jan. 6).
  • ESPN televises more than 100 live hours of programming from the 1992 America's Cup in San Diego (Jan. - May).
  • ESPN and ABC Sports announce an agreement to televise the entire 52-game 1994 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament when it is held for the first time in the United States. ESPN will televise 41 games from the 24-team tournament (June 3).


  • First ESPY Awards held in New York (March 4).
  • ESPN forms "The V Foundation" with Jim Valvano (March 4).
  • ESPN acquires the sports programming and sports sales of OCC (March 16).
  • ESPN2 launches in 10 million households (Oct. 1).


  • The hour-long nightly SportsCenter moves to 11 p.m. ET (April 3).
  • ESPN and ESPN2 combine to televise the entire NFL Draft for the first time (April 24-25).
  • ESPN acquires Creative Sports (now ESPN Regional Television) (May 9).
  • ESPN International begins service to 25 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa and adds 18 more countries in Southern Africa one week later (May 25).
  • ESPN and Tommy Boy Records release Jock Rock, a CD of popular songs heard at games. The album goes Gold, peaking at #79 on the Billboard chart.


  • ESPNET SportsZone (now is launched during Final Four Weekend (April 1).
  • ESPN/ESPN2 provide 45.5 hours of coverage from the first Extreme Games (now X Games), held in Rhode Island (June 24-July 1).
  • Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company announce plans to merge (July 31).
  • ESPN televises live Cal Ripken's record breaking 2,131st consecutive game, surpassing Lou Gehrig (Sept. 6).
  • ESPN Radio acquires exclusive broadcast rights for the NBA (Nov. 14).


  • FCC gives approval to merger of Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company (Feb. 9).
  • "Bottom Line2" debuts on ESPN2 with continuous scores and news (March 1).
  • ESPN provides exclusive coverage of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament for the first time (March).
  • ESPN wins 11 Sports Emmy Awards, its most ever and, for the second time (1994) the most of any network.
  • Steve Bornstein adds responsibility as President, ABC Sports (May 6).
  • ESPN televises the Major League Baseball playoffs, marking the first time the playoffs are on cable (Oct. 1-5).
  • ESPNEWS launches (Nov. 1).


  • Winter X Games debut in Big Bear Lake, Calif. (Jan. 30-Feb.1).
  • The Walt Disney Company purchases a significant equity stake in Starwave Corporation, co-producer (with ESPN) of ESPN SportsZone, the most popular destination site on the Internet. ESPN Internet Ventures is formed (April 3).
  • ESPN's 12-game inaugural WNBA schedule culminates with a simulcast of the playoff semifinals with the Lifetime network (Aug. 28).
  • ESPN acquires Classic Sports Network (now ESPN Classic) (Oct. 8).
  • Hyperion announces a line of books to be published in conjunction with ESPN, beginning with the 1998 ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac.


  • ESPN International marks its 15th anniversary by adding service to Antarctica, making ESPN available on every continent (Jan.).
  • ESPN adds first half of NFL season and again becomes the exclusive cable carrier of the NFL through 2005 (Jan. 13).
  • ESPN The Magazine debuts (March 11).
  • ESPN acquires the Big Fights Library, Inc. (May 12).
  • 20,000th SportsCenter is aired (May 17).
  • ESPN Zone opens in Baltimore (July 11).
  • ESPN and ABC sign an exclusive agreement with the NHL through 2004 (Aug. 25).
  • ESPN provides live coverage of Mark McGwire's record-tying 61st home run, which was ESPN's highest rated MLB telecast ever, earning a 9.5 rating (Sept. 7).
  • An ESPN specialty area opens in 100 Sears stores nationwide; 500 more to follow in the next year (Oct.).
  • Steve Bornstein is named Chairman of ESPN and George Bodenheimer is named President (Nov. 19).


  • ESPN announces the creation of the Great Outdoor Games to be held in Lake Placid, N.Y. in 2000 (Jan. 20).
  • ESPN unveils SportsCentury, an 18-month series reviewing the greatest sporting events, athletes, coaches and developments of the past 100 years (Jan. 22).
  • George Bodenheimer assumes responsibility for all of ESPN, Inc.'s domestic and international operations and Steve Bornstein becomes President of ABC, Inc. (March 1).
  • SportsCenter begins airing at 10 p.m. PT (April 6).
  • ESPN and ESPN2 televise 30 Women's World Cup Games (June and July).
  • ESPN2 becomes the fastest network to reach 65 million homes (August).