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ESPN Celebrates 42nd Anniversary Of First Broadcast

“The first SportsCenter telecast aired to roughly 30,000 viewers while being available to over 1.4 million subscribers.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is celebrating its 42nd anniversary today as the network commemorates its first live telecast on Sept. 7, 1979. The sports world is celebrating the milestone that cemented sports television as an everlasting phenomenon.

Bill Rasmussen and his son, Scott, conceived of the idea for an all-sports network a year earlier. The Hartford Whalers NHL club had just fired the father-son duo from their jobs with the team. Their first order of business? Finding an ideal place to broadcast their signal from.

The duo landed on an office building in Plainville, Connecticut. One big issue remained though. They couldn’t legally build broadcast satellites on the building because of an ordinance. After a little bit more digging, the Rasmussens chose Bristol, Conn., as the spot to harness the power of their satellite.

“The moment when everything clicked was Aug. 16, 1978,” Scott Rasmussen said in an oral history of ESPN’s first game broadcast. “We learned about the satellite, this incredible technology that can send a broadcast signal all around America for less money than it used to cost to send it around Connecticut.”

Beer and sports have long been connected, and that was a factor in ESPN’s early development. The network secured Anheuser-Busch with a $1 million advertising deal in the spring of 1979 to help aid their credibility.

Budweiser ads didn’t make them the worldwide leader in sports though, SportsCenter and live games are why ESPN is king, and the former got its start 42 years ago today. The first SportsCenter telecast aired to roughly 30,000 viewers while being available to over 1.4 million subscribers.

Word of mouth spread quickly around ESPN as they exploded in popularity over the years. The early days were a set of trial and error periods. The network had to have a wide range of sports to air because they couldn’t repeat SportsCenter 24 hours a day.

The first sport to air on the network wasn’t any of the major four fans think about today. Instead, they decided to air a professional slo-pitch softball game between the Kentucky Bourbons & the Milwaukee Schlitzes.

“Poker didn’t cut it,” Bill Rasmussen said. “Table tennis and pool didn’t cut it. We couldn’t do a live football game. We couldn’t do a major league baseball game. We had been playing with things like Irish hurling. Have you ever watched Irish hurling? It’s not going to excite you. But as Lee Leonard mentioned in his open, everybody plays softball on Sunday.”

Now, 42 years later, ESPN is still airing softball, along with so many other defining moments from America’s most popular sports.

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David Kaplan Leaving NBC Sports Chicago

“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement.”

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David Kaplan has announced he is departing NBC Sports Chicago. In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Kaplan said a new path opened that he couldn’t turn down.

“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement. You’ll still be able to catch me weekday mornings with Jonathan Hood on the Kap and JHood morning show on ESPN 1000. It will also allow me to provide you with more engaging and outstanding content right here on YouTube.”

Kaplan, who will turn 62 this weekend, accepted a buyout offered by NBCUniversal. He has hosted several different shows for the network during his tenure.

“He’s made enormous contributions to our network, and his passion, opinions and love of Chicago’s teams have made him a beloved and respected figure, not just with fans but also his colleagues,” NBC Sports Chicago Vice President of Content John Schippman told The Chicago Sun-Times. “We wish him the best and look forward to seeing what’s next.”

December 30th will be his final day at NBC Sports Chicago. He called his time with the network “an amazing run”.

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NASCAR Chasing Nearly $1 Billion Annual Rights Fee In Next TV Deal

“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport.”

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The current media rights deal for NASCAR with FOX Sports and NBC Sports doesn’t end until after the 2024 season, but the organization is currently plotting what it wants its next deal to look like, according to a report from Front Office Sports.

Currently, NASCAR makes $820 million per year from the two networks. In its new rights deal, it is expected to seek a deal in the neighborhood of $900-950 million range.

NASCAR plans to begin negotiating with its current media partners in the early months of 2023, but is currently happy with FOX and NBC.

“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport. Whether that’s pushing more brands and advertisers to spend on Fox and NBC,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Media and Productions Brian Herbst told FOS. “Fox had their third consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. NBC had their second consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. So it’s working for them — both from a viewership and an ad revenue perspective.”

In February of this year, NASCAR President Steve Phelps told the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that broadcast television “has to be a part” of the organization’s next television rights deal.

As its current media partners, FOX and NBC have exclusive negotiating windows with NASCAR.

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NFL Sunday Ticket Negotiations With Apple ‘Have Gotten Silly’

“Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”

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A report from The Athletic details why the NFL has not announced a new partner for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. David Kaplan claims there have been continued hiccups in the negotiations, mentioning the bargaining has gotten sideways between the league and Apple.

“This negotiation has gotten silly. … Clearly, there’s a problem. I think it’s really clear Apple is learning things they didn’t know,” the anonymous NFL source told Kaplan. “What the conversation is, is Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”

The report also details Amazon Prime and YouTube remain in the mix as potential suitors for the service, should talks with Apple and the league fall apart.

The NFL is looking for as much as $3.5 billion annually for rights to the service.

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