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ESPN, formerly an abbreviation of Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, is an American cable television network dedicated to broadcasting sports-related programming 24 hours a day. It was founded by Scott Rasmussen and his father Bill Rasmussen, and launched on September 7, 1979. Its signature telecast, SportsCenter, debuted with the network and aired its 25,000th episode on August 25, 2002. ESPN broadcasts primarily out of its studios in Bristol, Connecticut; it also operates offices out of Charlotte, including its sister station ESPN2 and its newest network ESPNU. ESPN is available in over 90 million homes in the United States. The name of the company was shortened to "ESPN Inc." in February 1985.
ESPN started as an alternative to the short sports segments in standard television news broadcasts and the information found in "Sports" sections of newspapers. It began as a fairly small operation and often had to broadcast unorthodox sporting events, such as tractor pulls; international sport relatively unknown in the U.S., such as Australian Rules Football, as well as the short-lived United States Football League (USFL), to attract viewers. In 1987, ESPN landed a contract to show National Football League games on Sunday evenings, an event which marked as a turning point in its development from a smaller cable TV network to a marketing empire, a cornerstone to the enthusiastic "sports culture" it largely helped to create.
ESPN was originally owned by a joint venture between Getty Oil Company (which was purchased by Texaco) and Nabisco. As of 2005, the entire family of ESPN networks and franchises are owned by ABC (the American Broadcasting Company) (80%), which is a part of The Walt Disney Company, and the Hearst Corporation (20%).
- ESPN (1979–present)
- ESPN on ABC (2006-present, replacing ABC Sports)
- ESPN International (1989–present)
- ESPN2 (1993–present)
- ESPNEWS (1996–present)
- ESPN Classic (1997–present)
- ESPNU (2005–present)
- ESPN Deportes (2004–present)
- ESPNHD (2003–present)
- ESPN2HD (2005–present)
- ESPN Plus (–present)
- ESPN PPV (–present)
- ESPN Classic Canada (–present)