Last Updated: October 12, 2015 7


Found In: Sport

If Americans are known to love two things most of all, it would be TV and sports, and so it could be no surprise how successful father and son team Bill and Scott Rasmussen were when they joined with Ed Egan and bankrolled by Getty Oil’s financial clout to launch the highly successful “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” (most people know it as ESPN). Indeed ESPN is now a global cable television network entirely focusing on sports type programming. Ranging from live to pre-taped events, the programming lineup includes sports telecasts, several sports talk shows and a variety of other original programming and since 1979’s launch; it has grown from strength to strength with its signature program called “Sports Center” having now aired well over thirty thousand episodes. Broadcasting from a variety of offices, its main studios are in Bristol, Connecticut with the late-night edition of Sports Center being broadcast live from Los Angeles.

Unquestionably a financial success, ESPN has its detractors too. There have been persistent claims of biased coverage in favor of financial investments ESPN has in venues and teams, the resulting conflicts of interest stemming from these investments as well as a number of controversies with some of its broadcast presenters and analysts.

ESPN is the Benchmark in Sports Television Programming

ESPN has been telecasting in (HD) high definition simulcast for nearly ten years and all its Bristol and Los Angeles studio shows and most live events shown on ESPN use high definition technology. Being well resourced financially, ESPN is one of the few digital networks which sports fan all appreciate greatly for the increased viewing experience. And more recently, ESPN has begun transmitting a lot of its programming in 3D.

The main criticism of ESPN has been accusations of bias by ESPN towards certain teams, especially the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Because ESPN and the ACC have a broadcasting rights deal extending until the 2027 season, the deal provides for additional football coverage as well as men and women’s basketball and Olympic sports footage. It is unquestioningly being suggested that the bias has a direct financial motive.

Further bias is alleged towards the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankee teams. There simply seems to be an inordinately high airing of highlights and games featuring Red Sox-Yankees games, especially during ESPN’s Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday night baseball broadcasts.

And there has been outrage that ESPN failed to report a taped telephone recording of Bernie Fine’s wife allegedly acknowledging her concerns that her husband may have molested at least one boy in their home. In her law suit for libel against ESPN, the wife complained bitterly about ESPN deliberately doctoring the conversation to bend and twist of out of context and that they did this with malicious intent. Whilst child abuse has nothing to do with sports, certainly ESPN has a social responsibility which it failed to act on if it believed the allegations to be true. And its reputation has been tarnished for sensationalizing the taped telephone call. And yet it has also been particularly scornful in articles critical of Joe Paterno when he also failed to report alleged child abuse by Jerry Sandusky.

ESPN is Not Frightened to be Controversial

There will always be contention when organizations grow large and powerful. And there is no such thing as all people being able to be happy all the time. And for whatever commercial bias ESPN may or may not show because of its programming deals and commitments, ESPN is a profit making business first and foremost. Unless there is a breach of law, the business owes its first duty to its shareholders and stake holders. And all people are free to watch other programming lineups if they are dissatisfied. There can be no confusion that ESPN has brought a great deal of money into professional sports through the sheer weight of its programming broadcasting deals. And a large number of people have profited by the billions of dollars than have been paid out since 1979, including the sporting stars, network executives and the presenters alike.

There is no question that ESPN will continue to have a fundamental impact on the professional and college sports arenas and it is hard to imagine it losing its heavy weight stature in the industry. This is reflected not just in its programming lineup which is as broad in the sports it covers as it is depth with the extensive coverage it delivers. And over recent years the ESPN web site has become a very busy portal of all things sport related and it has become a great resource for the sporting incline to catch up on news and events, match results and other commentary. And so it does not matter what sport a person is most interested in either at national or college level. There is an exhaustive amount of news and reporting to be found on the ESPN web site and it is a fact of human life that controversy will always peak people’s interest.

When combined with its financial strength, technical broadcasting superiority and the sheer breadth and depth of its sports programming coverage, ESPN will continue to propel itself to the forefront of anything sports related. There is not an American alive who does not have a clear understanding of exactly what ESPN is, and it is the first port of call when fans want to see or research anything of a sports nature. ESPN has a symbiotic relationship with sport, and one cannot live without the other. All players in particular need the income created by what ESPN pays for its television broadcasting rights, and ESPN needs the player’s outstanding skill and professionalism to hold its viewing audience captivated and coming back every season for more; and just as the fans want the way ESPN presents them with their rich diet of sports programming, ESPN has a powerful and promising future.