As a sports junkie I am a big time fan of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. As tuned in as I am to ESPN (I watch it as much as possible, my days begin with Mike & Mike and end with Sportscenter) I recently noticed a couple of new offerings from the sports leader: original programming is not limited to ESPN on-air as you can now catch the talented, dry-witted Kenny Mayne on Mayne Street on ESPN online; with the April 2009 launch of Sportscenter Los Angeles, ESPN might well boast that they are the last word on the day in sports; on July 6th 2009 SportsNation – the place for sports fans to express their opinions and interact with ESPN – begins airing. These are just a few examples of the networks commitment to innovation. When you look at the story of their beginnings, it’s clear that innovation is in ESPN’s dna.
ESPN was the brainchild of Bill Rasmussen, an unemployed sports announcer. His vision–a 24/7 network dedicated to sports. At a time when there was no CNN or MTV, it’s easy to imagine the criticism he must have encountered. But Rasmussen was not deterred. On September 7, 1979 ESPN was launched with Sportscenter (a daily sports news television show) which is the flagship program of the network and, 30 years later, the network has expanded into a global force. ESPN is TV, radio and print; original programming (including sports talk shows, movies, ESPY awards) and investigative reporting; an outlet for every sport under the sun (traditional and Xtreme, local and international) and accessible on every media platform available.
For the sports aficionado or even the casual viewer, with ESPN there’s never a dull moment–from the talent to the programming. They keep it fresh by leading not following, staying true to its vision as the worldwide leader in sports and, most of all, by giving consumers what they want wherever they are. ESPN’s track record suggests they’ve nailed it! What can other networks learn from ESPN’s enduring success?