ESPN, which became the largest cable network in 1983, reached several other milestones during the past year. A summary of 1983’s key developments follows:
- ESPN institutes a new subscription fee to its affiliate systems — 10 cents a month per subscriber.
- In a national survey conducted by Multichannel News, ESPN is recognized as the “Favorite Basic Service” of both operators and subscribers alike.
- ESPN’s Greg Gumbel named “Outstanding Sports Personality” for the second consecutive year by the readers of On Cable magazine.
- “Business Times” debuts on ESPN.
- ESPN begins its coverage of the USFL, the first American pro football league on cable.
- ESPN receives its first quarterly report from the A.C. Nielsen Co., which shows the network achieved a 2.0 average rating in prime time for the fourth quarter of 1982.
- ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Basketball Tournament averages a 4.3 rating.
- ESPN’s fourth consecutive NFL Draft becomes the network’s longest sports telecast ever, with 10 hours of live coverage.
- RSVP, the pay-per view joint venture of Getty Oil Company and ABC Video Enterprises, debuts with “The Crown Affair,” a world heavyweight boxing championship doubleheader.
- ESPN presents the first-ever American sports telecast delivered in stereo with its coverage of the Denver vs. Oakland USFL game.
- ESPN announces affiliate fee increase to 13 cents a month per subscriber effective January 1, 1984.
- For the first time on American television, the Grand Final of Australian Rules Football is carried live.
- ESPN presents live coverage of the dramatic final race of the America’s Cup competition. The telecast receives a 2.4 average rating, including a 4.6 for the final quarter hour. Both figures mark all-time highs for ESPN in non-prime time hours.
- ESPN provides live coverage of the prestigious Marlboro Cup horse race.
- ESPN passes WTBS to become the largest cable service, with 28.5 million subscriber households.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken becomes the first fast-food company to make a significant sponsorship investment in cable television, reaching agreement with ESPN.
- ESPN inaugurates an alternate programming feed for blackout situations.
- ESPN telecasts the final three rounds of the Kapalua International Championship of Golf from Maui, Hawaii, the first professional golf tournament ever presented live in evening prime-time.
- ESPN signs an agreement with the Professional Golf Association to provide live coverage of at least four PGA Tour events within the following year.
- ESPN and Comp-U-Card International, Inc. announce the creation of the “ESPN Pro Shop,” a membership program providing a specialized package of shop-at-home products and services at substantial savings for ESPN viewers.
- ESPN signs an agreement with United Satellite Communications Inc. (USCI) for the distribution of ESPN programming through direct broadcast satellite.