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ESPN, Inc.: 1983 in Review

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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:

January

  • 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.

February

  • ESPN’s Greg Gumbel named “Outstanding Sports Personality” for the second consecutive year by the readers of On Cable magazine.

March

  • “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.

April

  • ESPN’s fourth consecutive NFL Draft becomes the network’s longest sports telecast ever, with 10 hours of live coverage.

May

  • 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.

June

  • 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.

September

  • 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.

October

  • 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.

November

  • 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.

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