The Journey Begins - Abruptly!
In mid-1978, faced with unemployment after being fired from his job as Communications Director for the New England Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes), Bill Rasmussen founded ESPN. Entrepreneurial daring, irrepressible enthusiasm and a dash of good luck gave America its first 24-hour sports network in 1979. Once unleashed upon sports fans, ESPN’s impact forever changed the way we watch television.
Let’s not get ahead of the story...in 1978, the concept of a total sports network operating around the clock defied imagination, yet reached fruition in just 14 months. Naysayers abounded - especially among the broadcast giants of the day.
There were no 24-hour networks back in 1979 - not ABC, CBS, NBC, not even HBO. Fox hadn’t been thought of - even CNN and MTV hadn’t gotten off the mark when ESPN debuted at 7:00 PM, Friday, September 7, 1979.
Today, ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Sports, reaches more than 100 million US households and is delivered in many languages to countless countries around the world.
The ESPN concept sprang from an irritable discussion between a father and his son, Scott, while caught in a Connecticut traffic jam in August 1978.
The following year became a non-stop effort to negotiate program rights with the NCAA, to secure interim and long term financing, to assemble a staff and to complete production facilities in time for the September 7th launch.
In their wildest dreams, the Rasmussen duo “or anyone else for that matter” could not have guessed the magnitude of the idea, the impact it would have on sports broadcasting, or the global acceptance that is has achieved today.
In a perspective that only history affords us, the concept that defied imagination is now the world standard for sports television.
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