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ESPN, Inc.: 1990 in Review

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For ESPN, 1990 marked the arrival of Major League Baseball, ushering in a new era of national television coverage of America’s pastime.  The year also featured the naming of Steven M. Bornstein as ESPN president and CEO; the renewal of the National Football League contract; steady growth both domestically and internationally; the acquisition of the America’s Cup television rights for 1992; and involvement in Earthwinds, a historic around-the-world manned balloon flight planned for the fall of 1991.

“The addition of Major League Baseball in 1990 made ESPN a stronger service than ever,” Bornstein said.  “We offer tremendous value 12 months a year to our viewers, affiliates and advertisers and look forward to continued growth in 1991.”

Highlights from 1990 follow:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ON ESPN

ESPN’s inaugural season of Major League Baseball coverage, the largest undertaking in the history of television coverage of a sport, had an immediate impact on viewers, the sport, the network and its customers.  The 575-hour package provided viewers with:

  • 168 games, 155 editions of Baseball Tonight, more than 4,000 electronic cut-ins

Major League Baseball on ESPN led to:

  • a 60 percent rise in total viewership and 50 percent increase in ratings over the same time slots last year
  • 163 advertisers, 43 of which were not on the network in 1989
  • increased promotional and sales opportunities for the network’s more than 23,000 affiliates.

NEW ESPN PROGRAMMING

In addition to Major League Baseball, ESPN also expanded its commitment to outdoors and environmental programming.

  • Expedition Earth, a new 16-part adventure series, premiered.  One of the first shows featured the test flight for the “Earthwinds” global balloon flight.
  • ESPN expanded its Saturday morning outdoors block of programming and placed further emphasis in addressing environmental themes.
  • The network also has been running a series of public service announcements on environmental concerns.

ESPN GROWTH

Domestic

  • 3.1 million American households were added in 1990
  • ESPN is currently seen in 57.2 million homes, 61.4% of American television households
  • ESPN will end the year as America’s largest cable network for the eighth straight year

International

  • ESPN programming is now available in 64 countries.
  • “ESPN International,” a sports network distributed by ESPN to 28 countries in Central and South America and the Pacific-rim region, expanded to 24-hours-a-day May 1.
  • ESPN helped launch Japan Sports Channel in March.

Facilities

  • ESPN approximately doubled the size of its Broadcast Center in 1990 to accommodate the added demands of the network’s Major League Baseball coverage and other programming growth.

AWARDS

Among the awards ESPN won in 1990:

  • three Sports Emmy Awards, the most ever by the network
  • four ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) Awards
  • the National Sportscaster of the Year for Chris Berman, the first cable commentator to win the prestigious honor