In 1994, ESPN, Inc. — synonymous with quality sports entertainment and information worldwide — continued to aggressively create new opportunities to reach the sports consumer while enhancing its core sports television business.
Under the direction of ESPN President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Bornstein, the year’s highlights included
the debut of on-line service ESPNET; the launch of two additional international networks to Africa and the Middle
East; the acquisition of Creative Sports, a Charlotte-based production and syndication company, and an 80% interest
in SportsTicker, a New Jersey-based real-time sports news and information service; and the creation of two events:
the Great Eight and the Extreme Games. ESPN also celebrated its 15th anniversary.
“This was a year in which the ingenuity and resourcefulness of ESPN’s people was never more evident,” Bornstein
said. “From the creation of events and services to agreements which capitalize on the multi-media explosion, we
continue to search for innovative ways to better serve the consumer and our clients.”
ESPN signed key, long-term deals with the NCAA, NHL, Big Ten, SEC, Big East, and several NASCAR tracks
and announced the creation of two new events. The DIRECTV Great Eight, which invites the final eight teams from
the previous NCAA men’s basketball tournament for a pair of doubleheaders and was created in partnership with
Raycom, enjoyed a successful inaugural event last month. The Extreme Games, a week-long Olympic-style event of
non-traditional sports, will be held next summer in Rhode Island. The network’s commitment to news and information
was bolstered with the expansion of SportsCenter to one hour at both 6:30 and 11 p.m. Also, for the first time, ESPN
led all networks with 10 Sports Emmy Awards, its most ever.
In addition, ratings for college football increased by 27% and ESPN’s Sunday Night NFL is on pace to be cable’s highest-rated series for the eighth consecutive year.
A continued emphasis on marketing resulted in a number of memorable ESPN and ESPN2 campaigns — often
involving the athletes themselves, including Wayne Gretzky for the Stanley Cup playoffs and Boomer Esiason and
Cortez Kennedy for the W.A.T.C.H. NFL campaign.
ESPN2, which celebrated its first anniversary October 1, greatly enhanced its programming lineup with the addition
of college football (10 games, up from one in 1993) and basketball (100 planned for 1994-95, double last year), the
CFL, Arena Football, Major Indoor Lacrosse League, Roller Hockey International, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
and the series Great College Rivalries. The ESPN2 household base increased to 16.3 million.
ESPN and ESPN2 occasionally combined efforts to better serve viewers, including 41 games from soccer’s World
Cup, first-ever complete coverage of the NFL Draft and the most extensive coverage ever of the NHL playoffs and
the Tour de France. Perhaps the most innovative arrangement was an ESPN-ESPN2 simulcast of the IndyCar Bosch
Spark Plug Grand Prix from Nazareth, Pa. with ESPN2’s telecast consisting almost entirely of in-car camera angles
(a TV first).
ESPN Enterprises, Inc.
ESPN Enterprises, Inc. launched ESPNET, the most extensive on-line sports network, now available through the Prodigy service; created the ESPN Chilton Sports Poll, the first national service to continuously track sports fans’
attitudes, and announced an agreement with the Walt Disney Co. to open an interactive sports entertainment center
and restaurant in Orlando in 1996. In addition, the offerings of home video games (produced in association with Sony Imagesoft), CD-ROMs (produced in association with Intellimedia) and pay-per-view events were increased. Also,
a CD/cassette of stadium songs — Jock Rock — was released and climbed up the Billboard charts.
ESPN International launched two new live services — Orbit ESPN Sports Channel, reaching 25 countries in the
Middle East and Northern Africa, and Supersport-ESPN in 18 countries in Southern Africa. Overall domestic and international distribution now includes 127 million households in 120 countries in 11 languages. In addition, in Singapore
a 44,000-square foot production facility is being prepared, set to open in 1995 to distribute three networks in six
languages in India, Taiwan and Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia.
ESPN Radio Network
The ESPN Radio Network expanded in July with the successful launch of its first weekday, long-form programming
and its first call-in show — The Fabulous Sports Babe, which debuted on fewer than 30 radio stations and is now
heard on more than 90. Weekend programming is now carried on more than 275 affiliates.
In 1994, ESPN won the following awards:
- 10 Sports Emmys, its most ever, and, for the first time, the most of any network;
- Six CableACE Awards;
- Seven New York Festival Awards;
- Chris Berman named National Sportscaster of the Year for the fourth time.