When it comes to sports broadcasting, there’s no outlet that compares to ESPN. From cable channels to digital to platforms and even print publications, ESPN contributes to sports in a way that no other brand ever has, and it’s amassed a frenzied following as a result.
No Game Untouched
ESPN covers virtually every sport you can imagine in some capacity, but the bulk of its work deals with professional football, baseball, basketball, tennis, and golf, as well as college football and basketball. Its first show, Sportscenter, now receives an average of 115 million viewers every month.
Since it first started out, ESPN has grown and morphed into a multimedia sensation. From radio shows and podcasts to documentaries and fantasy sports applications, ESPN encompasses all things athletic not just in the United States, but across the planet.
Homegrown Success Story
The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) was founded in 1979 as a means for a New England announcer to broadcast his coverage of University of Connecticut games. Just 5 years later, ESPN was purchased by ABC, who helped transform ESPN into the powerhouse it is today.
ESPN began broadcasting NFL games in 1987, a function for which it is still known today. A few years later it expanded its programming into baseball, hockey, basketball, bowling, and tennis, among a number of other sports. The network began transmitting 24 hours a day, featuring a total of 65 different sports.
By that point, the company had begun coordinating programming outside of the United States as well, with sports like cricket and soccer. The 1990s were the point at which ESPN became a true cultural institution, expanding its channels to include new brands and beginning its radio broadcasts.
Now, ESPN employs more than 6,500 people worldwide. They covered more than 23,000 live events in 2018, and produced more than 60,000 hours of programming combined.
Diving Into Digital
Historically, the biggest ESPN competitors have just been other networks who also broadcast sports (but not primarily), and so this brand has enjoyed a relatively easy climb to the top. However, that’s changing as ESPN shuffles its priorities to feature digital pursuits at the top.
Because the network is now focusing on direct-to-consumer programming, they view every large tech company as a potential threat.
The Nature of the Game
Many brands pay big bucks to have top athletes endorse them, but ESPN doesn’t have to do that just by virtue of the type of company they are. Because they are constantly featuring big name athletes on their platforms, consumers already associate the company with these characters.
Still, the fact that the network is founded upon sports has proven difficult as well. Given that the industry is traditionally considered male dominated, many weren’t surprised when a female ex-host filed a sexual harassment suit against the company in 2018. ESPN responded by claiming they had, in fact, investigated the allegations when they were reported, and found them to be without merit.
Ultimately, the network appears to have suffered very little, as it currently sits at number 47 on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands with a value of more than $13 billion.
ESPN has practically become synonymous with sports, and their success appears far from waning as they gear up to join the next wave of the digital age.