Bristol, CT – Thirty three years ago tonight at 7:00 PM Eastern a little sports network in a tiny central Connecticut town took its first steps…and tiny though they were…the launch forever changed the way the world would watch not only sports on TV, but all TV.
The “Big Three” networks, ABC, CBS and NBC chuckled and snickered at the halting first steps and basically brushed off the idea that a merry band of sports fanatics and cable enthusiasts could produce anything significant to cut into their stranglehold on the television watchers of America.
No need to get into a lot of details, but the haughtiness, complacency and superior attitude – actually downright disdain – that anyone would dare to challenge them proved invaluable in the rapid growth of our tiny network. We worked with a passion every waking hour and their superior position gave us a tremendous running start and no one in Bristol ever looked back.
Many of those “Big Network” people would eventually end up working for ESPN and help build the giant ESPN juggernaut of today.
Hard to believe that ESPN – “the little train that could” – left the station in Bristol on its amazing journey to worldwide sports television domination thirty three years ago today.
For the interested, back in 1978, the concept of ESPN was world changing – a dumb idea – and everything in between. Whenever the idea was presented to seemingly sophisticated investors, the major cable operators of the day, the NCAA, or advertisers, the answer was either, “Who’s going to watch sports 24 hours a day,” or “NO.”
To refute the first question was easy and when we got the second one we just figured it would take another meeting or two to at least get them to ask the first question and then we knew that they would ultimately embrace our idea. Ours wasn’t the “classic business proposition” – matter of fact, we started each discussion with a simple white piece of paper with exactly eleven lines of typewritten bullet points and then “winged it.” It was certainly not “MBA” formatted, but IT WORKED!!!!
A couple of generations have evolved since the day in 1978 that ESPN was hatched. On these pages in the weeks and months to follow I’ll highlight some the the highs and lows of the of the often hectic, sometimes disappointing, but never without passion, pursuit of the dream – sports 24/7 on the E. S. P. Network.
You can read the entire story in Sports Junkies Rejoice or follow me here and let me know your thoughts. Whether you were with us on opening night on September 7, 1979, or you are a newbie, or you are somewhere in between, you’ll enjoy the ride.
The real story by the Founder himself