Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bill Rasmussen

Bill Rasmussen founded the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, more commonly known today as ESPN. I think I can safely claim that ESPN has changed not only the world of sports, but that it has had an effect on all of cable television. From Rasmussen's own words, "As founder of ESPN, I saw a company and an entire industry explode on the American television scene with breathtaking speed. Its impact forever changed the way Americans watch television." Today ESPN is owned by Disney and between the original network, spinoff stations ESPN2 and ESPN News, its Spanish counterpart ESPN Deportes and the wildly successful ESPN.com, the brand generates revenues in excess of $3 billion annually.

Rasmussen’s idea was to provide a network dedicated exclusively to sports programming. With cable television in its infancy, the idea of a 24-hour sports only station was seen by many as lunacy, but Rasmussen, a lifelong sports fan, recognized the opportunity to fill a niche by feeding the ravenous sports fan more coverage and a higher quality of access and analysis then they have ever had previously.

Of course, the product was not always as sleek and professional as it is today. During the early years, ESPN did not have the resources to land contracts from NCAA college football, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball League (as it does today) and consequently they were forced to be creative in their programming choices, using events like The World’s Strongest Man to fill the their schedule. ESPN’s first show was Sportscenter, on September 7th, 1979, and Sportscenter was the key ingredient to ESPN’s early success. By providing a fun, lighthearted feast of sports highlights, ESPN captured the audience that Rasmussen knew was out there, clamoring for better access to sports.

Today, Sportscenter remains the at the center of the ESPN programming day, but now faces competition from numerous copycat shows that have appeared on the scene to try to duplicate the initial success that ESPN enjoyed.

For more on the beginings of ESPN
Quick Bio

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