Plainville, Connecticut – desperation is closing in – but excitement about the Texas Show response keeps us thinking positive thoughts.
A phone call from JB saying that KS Sweet had decided to stop funding us defined our future…if we didn’t get an answer to our money crunch, i.e., if Getty didn’t move, we would miss next week’s payroll and be out of business just six days from now.
San Antonio, Texas – Armed with a model of our proposed mobile remote truck, I was anxious to tell the gathering about our big plans and intended to read the newly minted NCAA Press Release in the last sixty seconds of my five-minute presentation as part of a “New Programming” panel.
During my five minutes I outlined what the cable industry could expect from us: a 24-hours ad-supported sports network produced with first-class production equipment such as the model shown on stage, and finished with the NCAA announcement.
Now that was a lot for some 800 Texans and the assembled national cable media to swallow from a Yankee. The message sent shockwaves through the room – at least to those listening.
I’ll never forget one gentleman from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, who greeted me as I left the stage. “I don’t know how you’re going to do all you said, but if you do only half of it, you’ll be the most successful service we have.” How prophetic!
I wasn’t exactly besieged by reporters after this announcement of (in our opinion) a gigantic breakthrough for the cable industry, but a few of the cable trade papers dd come and ask for more of the story. That was really a good thing as it turned out. We needed some sort of boost for RCA, the NCAA, D”Arcy, Getty, et al and just the beginning evidence of interest by the industry media was extremely helpful.
Storrs, Connecticut – We lit up our own transponder for the first time thirty-three years ago today. The event was a Rutgers at UConn basketball game that we delivered to all active Connecticut cable systems and several large systems around the country including Tulsa, Oklahoma and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Little did we know how this rivalry would blossom when both teams became charter members of the Big East Conference just a year later.
Televising the game was a thrill for everyone at the E. S. P. Network as we were still known, but the production had been in doubt since our Christmas week meeting in Chicago. Getty still hadn’t decided whether or not to invest; KS Sweet and Associates were straining to advance us only enough money to keep the doos open – all the while hoping that Getty would come on board and repay their advances which by now had passed $200,000; and we had no money to pay for the production truck and crew heading for Storrs to televise the game.
With anxiety levels rapidly rising, time running out, and the crew chief standing next to his padlocked production van until he had a certified check in hand, Scott called from Plainville to say he was on his way to Storrs with the necessary check. He had miraculously worked some magic with a local banker and managed an “instantly-funded” short-term loan pending additional funds from KS Sweet or a Getty investment. Clearly, that Branch Manager was an early ESPN fan.
Despite our Christmas week disappointment, we had “stayed-the-course” and maintained daily contact with cable systems, RCA, the NCAA and Getty. While we were waiting for Scott to arrive with the check, I returned a call from Tom Hansen at NCAA Headquarters in Shawnee Mission. I was stunned and delighted to hear him invite me to a Special Meeting of the NCAA TV Committee in Kansas City on January 25th. Things were looking up…assuming all of this news would somehow keep us funded by somebody.
What a day!!! The game went off without a hitch, we were headed back to the NCAA in two weeks, but stay tuned…you just know that we were not idly standing around for two weeks. January was just getting underway and the 24 hour sports concept really heated up as we moved forward from the UConn Fieldhouse.
Posted in Birth of ESPN, Excitement builds
Tagged Baton_Rouge_Louisiana, Big_East_Conference, E.S.P._Network, Getty, KS_Sweet, NCAA, NCAA_TV_Committee, Rutgers, Tom_Hansen, Tulsa_Oklahoma, UConn
Kansas City, Missouri – Today was our chance to “meet the boys” of the NCAA TV Committee. We met several committee members on the way into the meeting as they were enjoying a coffee break prior to our presentation at 9:00AM.
We cued up our demonstration tape – a five-minute visual explanation of several points of our proposal along with a 3′ x 4′ map of the United States showing the distribution of current cable systems and we were ready to go. As I glanced around the room I was disappointed to note that Walter Byers was nowhere in sight.
In his gracious manner, Bo introduced JB and me to the committee members and to my pleasant surprise, I noticed that Mr. Byers had arrived and taken the empty chair next to the legendary Texas football coach Darrel Royal. Both sides of the rectangular meeting setup were full, But directly in front of me sat Byers and Royal.
Listening to Bo’s introduction, I must admit that I was momentarily intimidated by the sight of he two powerful men facing me. Stern, sincere Royal, arms folded across his chest, studied us with a non-committal look. Even more imposing, the fabled NCAA czar, Byers, with his shock of white hair and equally impassive expression, waited for my presentation. Bo concluded his intro and we were on.
I told the same story I had told the day before at Getty and essentially told all these NCAA heavyweights what a great new thing we were planning for them. The excitement and enthusiasm were all one way. The reception of the presentation was polite and courteous with a few general questions and it was over. It should be be noted that neither Byers or Royal said a word…matter of fact their expressions barely changed throughout the presentation.
That was it. Bo thanked us and from his comments and some of the questions asked, we had an idea that we would be back for another meeting. Bo repeated his earlier comment about having a great idea and said Tom Hansen would be in touch. That ended the morning and JB and I were off to Denver to talk to the biggest cable TV Multiple System Operators (MSOs).
Wow…think about this: Monday at Getty to talk money; Tuesday with the NCAA TV Committee to talk programming; and Wednesday with cable TV’s corporate elite to talk customers.
Read the full story of the race to create ESPN at http://espnfounder.com/sjr_discount2011.htm. It’s a great holiday gift for the ESPN fans in your life.