ESPN (originally an initialism for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) is an American multinational basic cable sports channel owned by ESPN Inc., owned jointly by The Walt Disney Company (80%) and Hearst Communications (20%). The company was founded in 1979 by Bill Rasmussen along with his son Scott Rasmussen and Ed Egan.
ESPN broadcasts primarily from studio facilities located in Bristol, Connecticut. The network also operates offices in Miami, New York City, Seattle, Charlotte, and Los Angeles. James Pitaro currently serves as chairman of ESPN, a position he has held since March 5, 2018, following the resignation of John Skipper on December 18, 2017. While ESPN is one of the most successful sports networks, there has been criticism of ESPN. This includes accusations of biased coverage, conflict of interest, and controversies with individual broadcasters and analysts.
ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut As of September 2018, ESPN is available to approximately 86 million television households (93.2% of households with pay television) in the United States.
In addition to the flagship channel and its seven related channels in the United States, ESPN broadcasts in more than 200 countries. It operates regional channels in Australia, Brazil, Latin America, and the United Kingdom. In Canada, it owns a 20% interest in The Sports Network (TSN) and its five sister networks.
In 2011, ESPN's history and rise were chronicled in Those Guys Have All the Fun. It is a nonfiction book written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales and published by Little, Brown, and Company. It premiered at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction books.
Bill Rasmussen conceived the concept of ESPN on in May 1978, after he was fired from his job with the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers. One of the first steps in Bill and his son Scott's (who had also been let go by the Whalers) process was finding land to build the channel's broadcasting facilities. The Rasmussens first rented office space in Plainville, Connecticut. However, the plan to base ESPN there was put on hold because of a local ordinance prohibiting buildings from bearing rooftop satellite dishes. Available land area was quickly found in Bristol, Connecticut (where the channel remains headquartered to this day), with funding to buy the property provided by Getty Oil, which purchased 85% of the company from Bill Rasmussen on February 22, 1979, in an attempt to diversify the company's holdings. This helped the credibility of the fledgling company, however there were still many doubters to the viability of their sports channel concept. Another event that helped build ESPN's credibility was securing an advertising agreement with Anheuser-Busch in the spring of 1979; the company invested $1 million to be the "exclusive beer advertised on the network."
ESPN's first logo, used from 1979 to 1985 ESPN launched on September 7, 1979, beginning with the first telecast of what would become the channel's flagship program, SportsCenter. Taped in front of a small live audience inside the Bristol studios, it was broadcast to 1.4 million cable subscribers throughout the United States.