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ESPN, Inc.: 1984 In Review

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ESPN, America’s largest cable network, reached several milestones during the past year.  A summary of 1984’s key developments follows:

January

  • ABC Video Enterprises, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ABC, Inc., announces plan to purchase a 15 percent interest in ESPN from Getty Oil Company.
  • Texaco, Inc., acquires Getty Oil Company.

February

  • ABC Video completes purchase of 15 percent interest in ESPN, February 1.
  • The United States Football League kicks off its second season with a 35-game regular-season schedule on ESPN.  ESPN’s production of football includes the continued use of stereo sound on selected telecasts for the second consecutive season.

March

  • ESPN begins the first national college baseball game-of-the-week series, culminating in the network’s fifth straight year of coverage of the College World Series.
  • Twenty-five games of the NCAA basketball tournament cap ESPN’s “Greatest Basketball Schedule Ever.”  During one contest seen on ESPN, a referee stops the game to consult a courtside monitor for a replay of a controversial call, believed to be the first time this has happened on a national telecast.

April

  • For the first time in its history, the Boston Marathon is televised live to a national audience when ESPN airs the race from the start through the top finishers.

May

  • ESPN captures its second consecutive Luna Award as “Best Basic Service” by private cable operators and equipment manufacturers attending the Denver Satellite Expo.
  • ESPN announces new affiliate fee.  Effective January 1, 1985, the fee will increase to 19 cents/month per subscriber.  The rate increase affects new ESPN affiliates, affiliates whose contracts expire in 1985, and affiliates with contracts allowing for rate escalation.

June

  • ABC Video Enterprises completes the acquisition of ESPN from Texaco, Inc.

July

  • ESPN acquires exclusive national cable rights to College Football Association Saturday night, prime-time games for the 1984 season.

September

  • For the first time in the network’s history, ESPN employs an in-car camera during live coverage of NASCAR’s Southern 500.
  • ESPN announces that cable systems selling local ad time will generate collectively an estimated $11 million from the sale of spots during ESPN’s 15-game College Football Association package.

October

  • ABC Video Enterprises sells minority interest (20 percent) in ESPN to Nabisco Brands, Inc., October 1.  Don Ohlmeyer and John Martin, respectively Chairman and President of Ohlmeyer Communications Companies, a Nabisco Brands joint venture, represent Nabisco Brands on the ESPN Board of Directors.
  • ESPN reaches agreement on new affiliate contracts with TCI (TeleCommunications, Inc.) and ATC (American Television & Communications, Inc.), the largest and second-largest Multiple System Operators (MSO) in the country.

December

  • Five college football bowl games are televised live on ESPN, including the Holiday Bowl telecast featuring number-one-ranked Brigham Young University, capping a season in which the CFA schedule finished as the highest-rated series ever on ESPN.
  • ESPN becomes available in all 50 states, as Oceanic Cablevision of Hawaii begins carrying the network to 155,000 subscribers throughout most of the island of Oahu.
  • ESPN is seen in 34.8 million homes at the end of 1984, 41 percent of U.S. television homes and an increase of 5.5 million homes, to remain the largest cable network.

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