Sports Television and the Continuing Search for Alternative Programming

in International Journal of Sport Communication
View More View Less
  • 1 Seton Hall University

The American sports television industry has scrambled to adjust to the loss of live sporting events in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—a scramble clearly evidenced in programming schedules suddenly filled with replays of older event telecasts. However, rather than focusing on the apparent novelty of this type of substitute coronavirus programming, this article, instead, argues that the loss of live sporting events represents the amplification of a problem that television networks have already been grappling with for years: how to fill an ever greater number of outlets with sufficient year-round programming given a finite number of live events. With that in mind, this article proposes that many of the programming strategies that networks have turned to in the midst of the pandemic, including the expanded coverage of transactions (e.g., coverage of National Football League free agency) and the increased scheduling of documentaries (e.g., The Last Dance), have been familiar extensions of previously established alternative programming solutions.

The American sports television industry has been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Like the rest of the American television industry, for instance, sports television has had to adapt to a decline in television advertising, with many brands adjusting to economic turbulence by pulling back on marketing budgets. The most visible effects of the pandemic, however, have manifested in networks’ programming schedules. With almost all live sporting events canceled, networks have searched for alternative programming that might replace the many hours that would previously have been devoted to both live games and related coverage, including shoulder programming like pre- and postgame shows. Indeed, this search for replacement programming has been so visible that it has become the topic of popular humor, with The Onion (“ESPN Execs,” 2020) jokingly suggesting that ESPN would resort to airing blood sports and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (Colbert et al., 2020) jesting that ESPN would turn to programs like “Solitary Hill Rolling” and “Old Man Hide-and-Seek.”

These sorts of jokes suggest that sports television is, for the first time, confronting the quandary of what to do without live sporting events. While it is certainly true that the pandemic represents an unprecedented situation, networks have long faced the challenge of finding programming to accompany their live sports holdings. With that in mind, this article briefly historicizes several key moments in the continuing search for alternative programming and, in the process, identifies a few of the primary strategies that networks have employed in complementing their live event programming, such as the broadcasting of documentaries and event replays. Building on this historicization, the article then argues that the approaches that networks have taken in replacing their live event coverage in the wake of coronavirus, rather than being completely novel, instead represent relatively familiar programming strategies.

An Abbreviated History of Alternative Programming

Alternative sports television programming has a long history—a long history that underscores the fact that networks have continually confronted hurdles in filling their schedules. A notable early chapter in this history came with the creation of the American Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) Wide World of Sports in 1961. As Vogan (2018) recounts, the popular series was born when ABC's desire for spring and summer sports programming ran up against Major League Baseball’s (MLB) restrictive blackout rules that prevented baseball telecasts from being broadcast in the league's markets. As a solution, the network turned toward “comparatively fringe sports that ABC could deliver to all affiliates no matter their location” (p. 33). The first season of the program, for instance, featured events like the World Hydroplane Championships. Vogan notes that the fringe nature of these events played to networks’ advantage. “The competitions’ generally marginal profile,” he writes, “ensured inexpensive broadcast rights and permitted ABC to air featured events retrospectively without most viewers being aware of, or likely even caring about, their results” (p. 33). As Vogan goes on to document, Wide World of Sports was soon expanded into a yearlong program, with the show helping ABC compensate for the temporary loss of National Collegiate Athletic Association football rights. Notably, too, ABC was not the only network to make use of the anthology format. For example, CBS Sports Spectacular also aired throughout this period, featuring events like the Army–Navy lacrosse game and a United States–Japan gymnastics competition (Brooks & Marsh, 2009).

Although the creation of anthology series like Wide World of Sports demonstrates that alternative programming strategies began in the network era, the need for alternative programming only increased with the expansion of cable television starting in the late 1970s. This need was particularly pressing in the earliest days of the multichannel transition. Although the new cable networks would eventually compete for many of the same sporting rights as the major broadcast networks, they could not initially count on filling their schedules with live sporting events, particularly the most valuable sporting events. For example, when ESPN first launched in 1979, it lacked both the budget and cachet to land the rights to desired properties like National Football League (NFL) games (Vogan, 2015). Indeed, in the early 1980s, promotional material for ESPN carried shades of Wide World of Sports as the network primarily lauded its ability to bring audiences the “best in sports programming” through minor events like “Horse Show Jumping” and “Pro Celebrity Golf” (“Programming”, ca. 1981).

Beyond the inclusion of these sorts of fringe competitions, however, one can spot other alternative programming strategies in the early ESPN promotional materials. For example, the network also touted its numerous “studio specials” (“Programming”, ca. 1981). Significantly, studio shows are relatively inexpensive to produce as networks can reuse both facilities and talent (Battaglio, 2016; Guthrie, 2013). Unsurprisingly, then, networks have continued to rely on studio programming to fill their programming schedules over the past few decades. To that point, upon their respective launches, National Basketball Association (NBA) TV, the NFL Network, and the MLB Network each dealt with a lack of live game telecasts by constructing a programming schedule built around studio shows (Kunz, 2020). For example, when the MLB Network launched in 2009, its signature studio show, MLB Tonight, “started at 5:00 pm Eastern time on most nights and stayed on until the end of West Coast night games some eight hours later” (Kunz, 2020, p. 87). Of course, though, studio shows also maintain a key role in the schedules of networks that do have sizable portfolios of live event rights across a number of different sports, as exemplified by the growing place of debate shows on the schedules of networks like ESPN and Fox Sports 1 (Serazio, 2019; Tussey, 2020). As sports media reporter Ourand (2016) noted in the mid-2010s as the rights fees for live sporting events continued to escalate, “judicious” networks will sometimes even prefer to “produce cheaper studio programming over carrying live sporting events” (para. 5).

Returning to the early ESPN promotional materials, it is also notable that the network promoted itself “as televising live what used to be considered avant-garde in the industry” (“Programming”, ca. 1981), including events like the NFL player draft and the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions. As the “avant-garde” phrasing highlights, the broadcasting of an event like the NFL draft—featuring no live sporting action—was, in some ways, an even more unconventional alternative programming strategy than the turn toward minor competitions. In fact, when ESPN first broached the possibility of televising the league’s draft selection process in 1979, the league voted unanimously against the idea, “fearing no one would watch” (Freeman, 2001, p. 102). The draft—at that point—was considered a relatively insignificant blip on the league’s calendar, attracting little media attention. As Oates (2004) suggests, “The idea of an obscure cable channel taking what was then a mid-week event that barely merited a mention in the next day’s newspaper must have seemed hardly worth the trouble” (p. 60). By the next year, however, the network had convinced the league to let it carry the event, and over the ensuing decades it has remained a staple of ESPN’s portfolio even as the network has acquired the rights to ever more high-profile properties (Oates, 2009). Indeed, the draft has become one of the premier events on the television calendar, having come to generate audience ratings rivaling those of prominent live events, including NBA playoff games (Rosenthal, 2018).

The growth in status of the NFL draft is a particularly notable trend because the event’s elevation is more broadly indicative of the increasing importance of transactional sports television as an alternative programming strategy. As the NFL draft telecast became an increasingly popular television event, other leagues, most notably the NBA, also worked with broadcasters to turn their annual player drafts into television programming. In addition, networks have increasingly oriented studio programming around other transactions, particularly leagues’ free agency periods and trade deadlines. Relatedly, too, a number of networks have begun producing programs based around the virtual transactions of fantasy sports. Crucially, the focus on transactions has helped solve a problem that plagues all sports television outlets but particularly those devoted to single sports: off-seasons. As popular, for instance, as the NFL might be, its season lasts less than half the year. Player transactions, then, have helped generate content when leagues are on break. Notably, too, transactional programming, like other forms of studio television, is relatively cheap to produce.

As cable television continued to expand and fracture over the course of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, with more and more sports channels launching and, accordingly, more and more entities competing for live event rights, networks continued to devise other ways to fill their programming schedules. To that point, ESPN itself mushroomed during this period, with ESPN2 debuting in 1993, followed by ESPNews in 1996, ESPN Classic in 1997, ESPN Deportes in 2004, and ESPNU in 2005. This explosion of outlets necessitated new programming strategies. Vogan (2015) details, for instance, the important role that archives came to play in filling ESPN’s schedules. ESPN Classic, for instance, not only replayed events from ESPN’s and ABC’s expansive libraries—a programming strategy that ensured low operating costs—but also turned to those libraries for other related content. To that point, Vogan highlights the program Cheap Seats, which featured comedians Jason and Randy Sklar humorously commenting on older programs from the ESPN and ABC archives—Wide World of Sports included. Other new networks also turned to archival footage. For example, when the NFL Network launched in 2003, “101 of its 168 hours per week came from the vaults of NFL Films” (Kunz, 2020, p. 87).

The turn toward historical footage for sources of alternative programming is also evidenced in the surge of documentary production over the past few decades. ESPN, for instance, launched the SportsCentury documentary series in 2001. As Vogan (2015) notes, ESPN not only viewed the series as helping to refine the company’s brand but also saw it as creating evergreen content that could be usefully plugged in across the company’s many programming schedules. He quotes former ESPN President Steve Bornstein, who commented of SportsCentury, “You own the property and you can recirculate it, reuse it, and slice it and dice it. That’s smart business” (as cited in Vogan, 2015, p. 61). Similarly, ESPN’s next documentary series, 30 for 30, has also been seen as versatile alternative programming, with ESPN executive Connor Schell having described the films as “evergreen stories that ESPN can broadcast on multiple platforms for years to come” (as cited in Vogan, 2015, p. 140). Bearing that out, Vogan notes that 30 for 30 documentaries have frequently appeared across ESPN’s many outlets. ESPNU, for instance, regularly broadcasts 30 for 30 documentaries touching on college athletics. ESPN, too, has hardly been alone in looking toward documentaries as alternative programming able to flesh out programming schedules. For example, in the wake of the success of the SportsCentury series, the NFL Network launched the documentary series America’s Game: The Super Bowl Champions, while the Big Ten Network launched the documentary series Big Ten Icons. As Vogan suggests, “The NFL Network and Big Ten Network use these series to build a supply of productions” both to cross-promote their other programming and to “serve as filler” (p. 68).

Across the sports television landscape, both national and regional broadcasters face the unending challenge of filling their schedules with sports-related programming. Inevitably, then, the foregoing short account leaves out many of the alternative programming approaches that networks have employed. Nonetheless, what this condensed history makes clear is that sports television has long been more than just live events and that networks have continually strategized about how to conceive of sports television beyond these events.

Alternative Programming in the Time of Coronavirus

As live sporting events disappeared from networks’ schedules in the wake of the coronavirus, networks have found themselves turning toward many of the same strategies they have previously relied on to fill their many hours of programming needs. In the clearest echoes of the joking suggestions from The Onion and The Late Show, one strategy has entailed airing fringe sports, with ESPN occasionally broadcasting marathons of obscure events like the National Stone Skipping Competition and the U.S. Open Ultimate Championships under the banner of “The Ocho” (a meta-reference to the film Dodgeball’s earlier jokes about ESPN’s desperation for programming as it expanded its cable presence). This turn toward minor sports recalls ABC’s use of Wide World of Sports in multiple ways. For one, such events are appealing because their rights are relatively inexpensive. To that point, USA Ultimate, the governing body of ultimate in the United States and the organizer of the U.S. Open Ultimate Championships, does not collect rights fees from ESPN. The organization, prioritizing the sport’s visibility, instead splits production costs with the network and then shares sponsorship and advertising revenues (Eisenhood, 2020). Perhaps more significant—particularly in the wake of the coronavirus—is that these events do not depend on liveness. Much as in the case of Wide World, viewers can watch these minor events without knowing, or potentially caring, about the final results.

Another familiar strategy that networks have leaned on is an emphasis on studio shows. Although the production norms for many of these shows may have shifted, with talent often broadcasting remotely from their homes, networks have continued to fill their schedules with news shows and debate shows attempting to generate hours of discussion out of subjects like the timelines for return for various sports and speculative arguments (as exemplified by a debate on Fox Sports 1’s Skip and Shannon: Undisputed about whether Michael Jordan would “dominate if he played in today’s NBA”). Relatedly, transactional television has also had a large role to play during the coronavirus pandemic. In the weeks immediately following event cancellations, NFL free agency and the NFL draft dominated large swaths of sports television schedules. In addition, the Women’s National Basketball Association draft in April generated extra coverage and near-record ratings (Valenzuela, 2020), and the MLB draft in June was broadcast in prime time across multiple networks—ESPN and the MLB Network—for the first time in that event’s history (Healey, 2020). Just as networks have valued this sort of programming during leagues’ off-seasons for its ability to provide discussion points without necessitating live games, this transactional content has proven to be valuable during this current moment for similar reasons.

Networks have also turned to event replays as an alternative programming solution. This has been a particularly popular strategy for league-owned channels as the leagues —rather than their broadcast partners—tend to control most replay rights (McCarthy, 2020). Much as Vogan writes of ESPN Classic, the operating costs entailed in the reairing of older events are, presumably, quite low. In addition, networks have also turned to documentaries to fill their schedules, with ESPN notably placing the Michael Jordan documentary series The Last Dance and several 30 for 30 films into a regular Sunday prime time spot. The use of documentaries during the coronavirus pandemic has borne out ESPN executives’ earlier arguments about documentaries serving as particularly versatile content. Programmers have not only been able to place older documentaries across their schedules, but newer documentaries have also been used to cross-promote and supplement other programs. The Last Dance, for instance, was spun off into related shoulder programming, including a number of after show specials.

Soon after live event cancellations began in March, ESPN executive Burke Magnus argued that the network’s adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic would build on the “experience we’ve had programming over the years” (as cited in Krulewitz, 2020, para. 10). As the aforementioned points indicate, the subsequent weeks largely confirmed Magnus’s prediction. ESPN as well as other networks have addressed the loss of live sporting events by turning to the same alternative programming strategies they have long used to complement their live sports holdings. Although, for many viewers, it has undoubtedly been bizarre to see so many documentaries and event replays across sports television, for networks, the turn toward these sorts of stopgaps has represented a return to tried-and-true strategies.

Assessing Alternative Programming

In the months since the coronavirus set off the waves of event cancelations that redefined the sports landscape, networks have undoubtedly tried some novel approaches to fill the holes in their schedules. Perhaps most notably, networks have committed to esports in new ways. To some degree, networks have already dabbled in esports, as evidenced by Turner’s efforts with ELEAGUE and ABC/ESPN’s recently expired broadcast deal with Blizzard’s Overwatch League, but such efforts aside, esports have continued to be largely associated with online streaming platforms like Twitch (Champlin, 2019; Taylor, 2018). In the wake of coronavirus, however, networks have increasingly relied on esports to fill their schedules. Networks have not only established new deals with existing esports competitions but also experimented with esports telecasts featuring competitions among professional athletes, as in the “NHL Player Gaming Challenge” telecasts on NBCSN. Furthermore, networks have also begun dipping their toes into a possible future in which fans might also take part in these competitions and, thus, become “immersed e-participants” (Sturm, 2020, p. 12), as exemplified by a collaboration between ESPN and Peloton for a televised “All-Star Ride.” Several of these experiments, particularly the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing “iRacing Pro Invitational” telecasts on Fox/ Fox Sports 1, have proven to be relative ratings successes (Arnold, 2020).

What this article underscores, however, is that as unprecedented as the coronavirus pandemic might be, the sort of novelty exemplified by experiments like these esports telecasts is not fully representative. Rather, networks have largely relied on familiar alternative programming strategies. In this way, the coronavirus has served as a clarifying moment that sheds extra light on sports television programming strategies and, in the process, illuminates several facts about the sports television landscape. For one, it demonstrates that networks have long searched after programming to accompany their live sports holdings—even back to the network era of television. For another, it highlights that even though this search dates back decades, the need for alternative programming has only grown with the explosion of sports television outlets over the past several decades. Indeed, for sports television outlets largely associated with single leagues or sports, like NBA TV, the challenge of filling a schedule without live games is an annual dilemma that stretches for months. To that point, the programming schedule of an outlet like the NFL Network is not currently too dissimilar from what it might look like in a more typical summer.

Moreover, in bringing additional awareness to networks’ programming schedules and the search for alternative programming, the coronavirus pandemic brings extra attention to what gets defined as worthy of television—and, accordingly, what does not. Significantly, women’s sports have long been largely absent from television (Cooky et al., 2015). The history of alternative programming demonstrates that networks have mainly addressed the limited pool of men’s live sporting event rights not by accompanying those telecasts with women’s live sporting events but, rather, by expanding their coverage of men’s sports, as exemplified by the growth in transactional television and the preponderance of documentaries about men’s sports (Antunovic & Linden, 2020). And just as the coronavirus has seen networks lean on familiar alternative programming strategies, it has also seen them continue to skew toward men’s sports. Studio shows, for instance, have continued to focus on men’s sports throughout the pandemic and event replays have largely been of men’s sports.

Finally, the need for alternative sports programming during the pandemic has reinforced that alternative programming has long been primarily designed as an accompaniment. Although there might be a temptation to read networks’ recent maneuverings as indicative of future programming trends—signaling, for instance, a larger place for event replays—it is more likely that networks will return such programming to its complementary status as soon as possible. To that point, alternative programming has, with a few notable exceptions such as The Last Dance, struggled to garner significant ratings numbers. These struggles, in turn, have contributed to questions about the value of sports television, whether cable subscribers will be further incentivized to “cut the cord,” and, relatedly, whether cable companies should be issuing refunds or lowering their rates in response to the absence of live sporting events (Larson & Palmeri, 2020). As New York State Attorney General James (2020) argued in a letter to cable providers, “Sports channels showing solely reruns and sports video game simulations … is not what customers bargained for” (para. 5) before further referring to this sort of programming as “the ghost” of the service for which subscribers had signed up. While such language may gloss over the fact—emphasized in this article—that alternative programming has long played a key role in sports television, it is also undoubtedly true that alternative programming is meant to be just that: an alternative to the implicit primacy of live event coverage.

References

  • Antunovic, D., & Linden, A.D. (2020). “Powerful lessons” in women’s sport: ESPN’s Nine for IX series. Journal of Sport and Social Issues. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0193723519899245

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arnold, J. (2020, April 5). The best thing about NASCAR’s virtual races might be the real competition. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/05/sports/autoracing/coronavirus-nascar-racing-earnhardt.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Battaglio, S. (2016, December 27). Debate shows are heating up the rivalry between ESPN and Fox Sports. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-fox-espn-20161213-story.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brooks, T., & Marsh, E.F. (2009). The complete directory to prime time network and cable TV shows, 1946-present. New York, NY: Random House.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Champlin, A.D. (2019). Making games watchable: Broadcasting video games and playing attention (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/01q0c2n8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Colbert, S. (Executive producer), Licht, C. (Executive producer), Purcell, T. (Executive producer), Stewart, J. (Executive producer), Julien, B. (Co-executive producer), & Rehrig, D. (Co-executive producer). (2020, April 14). The late show with Stephen Colbert [Television series episode]. New York, NY: CBS. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhRwlLqaYVY

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cooky, C., Messner, M.A., & Musto, M. (2015). “It’s dude time!”: A quarter century of excluding women’s sports in televised news and highlight shows. Communication & Sport, 3(3), 261287. doi:10.1177/2167479515588761

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eisenhood, C. (2020, February 27). USA Ultimate, ESPN re-sign three year deal. Ultiworld. Retrieved from https://ultiworld.com/2020/02/27/usa-ultimate-espn-re-sign-three-year-deal/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ESPN execs: ‘Fuck it, air the dogfighting’. (2020, April 3). The Onion. Retrieved from https://sports.theonion.com/espn-execs-fuck-it-air-the-dogfighting-1842661538

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Freeman, M. (2001). ESPN: The uncensored history. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing.

  • Guthrie, M. (2013, September 13). How sports networks without NFL games program around them. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/nfl-games-how-sports-networks-625387

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Healey, T. (2020, May 29). ESPN, MLB Network to air MLB draft next month. Newsday. Retrieved from https://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mlb-draft-espn-mlb-network-1.45053464

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • James, L. (2020, April 28). Letter to Altice USA, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, DISH Network, RCN Corporation, and Verizon Communications. New York State Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved from https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/all.pdf

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krulewitz, J. (2020, March 17). The challenge is that now we need to replicate that dynamic 24 hours a day, seven days a week across multiple networks. ESPN Front Row. Retrieved from https://www.espnfrontrow.com/2020/03/the-challenge-is-that-now-we-need-to-replicate-that-dynamic-24-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week-across-multiple-networks/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kunz, W.M. (2020). The political economy of sports television. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Larson, E., & Palmeri, C. (2020, April 29). New York says cut cable fees since there are no live sports. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-29/cable-fees-for-live-sports-should-be-cut-amid-crisis-n-y-says

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCarthy, M. (2020, March 18). Classic game replays on tap as networks dig deep into sport archives. Front Office Sports. Retrieved from https://frntofficesport.com/mlb-network-nhl-network-classic-games/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oates, T.P. (2004). On the block: Race, gender, and power in the NFL draft (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/114

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oates, T.P. (2009). New media and the repackaging of NFL Fandom. Sociology of Sport Journal, 26(1), 3149. doi:10.1123/ssj.26.1.31

  • Ourand, J. (2016, May 2). Does media rights bubble have a leak? SportsBusiness Journal. Retrieved from https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2016/05/02/In-Depth.aspx

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Programming. (ca. 1981). [Clipping from unidentified ESPN promotional materials]. NFL draft clippings file, Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center, Canton, OH.

    • Export Citation
  • Rosenthal, P. (2018, April 30). NFL draft a reminder LeBron James and NBA still far from overtaking pro football. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/ct-spt-nfl-draft-ratings-vs-nba-lebron-james-20180430-story.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Serazio, M. (2019). The power of sports: Media and spectacle in American culture. New York, NY: NYU Press.

  • Sturm, D. (2020). Fans as e-participants? Utopia/dystopia visions for the future of digital sport fandom. Convergence. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1354856520907096

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Taylor, T.L. (2018). Watch me play: Twitch and the rise of game live streaming. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Tussey, E. (2020). Pardon the interruption: sports debate. In E. Thompson & J. Mittell (Eds.), How to watch television (2nd ed., pp. 372381). New York, NY: NYU Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Valenzuela, S. (2020, April 21). Virtual WNBA Draft a ratings hit for ESPN with Sabrina Ionescu to the Liberty leading the way. New York Daily News. Retrieved from https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/ny-wnba-draft-20200421-ic3ozfmexbgabetzh6vexu6yha-story.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vogan, T. (2015). ESPN: The making of a sports media empire. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

  • Vogan, T. (2018). ABC Sports: The rise and fall of network sports television. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

The author (Branden.Buehler@shu.edu) is with the Dept. of Communication and the Arts, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, USA.

  • Antunovic, D., & Linden, A.D. (2020). “Powerful lessons” in women’s sport: ESPN’s Nine for IX series. Journal of Sport and Social Issues. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0193723519899245

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arnold, J. (2020, April 5). The best thing about NASCAR’s virtual races might be the real competition. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/05/sports/autoracing/coronavirus-nascar-racing-earnhardt.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Battaglio, S. (2016, December 27). Debate shows are heating up the rivalry between ESPN and Fox Sports. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-fox-espn-20161213-story.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brooks, T., & Marsh, E.F. (2009). The complete directory to prime time network and cable TV shows, 1946-present. New York, NY: Random House.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Champlin, A.D. (2019). Making games watchable: Broadcasting video games and playing attention (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/01q0c2n8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Colbert, S. (Executive producer), Licht, C. (Executive producer), Purcell, T. (Executive producer), Stewart, J. (Executive producer), Julien, B. (Co-executive producer), & Rehrig, D. (Co-executive producer). (2020, April 14). The late show with Stephen Colbert [Television series episode]. New York, NY: CBS. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhRwlLqaYVY

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cooky, C., Messner, M.A., & Musto, M. (2015). “It’s dude time!”: A quarter century of excluding women’s sports in televised news and highlight shows. Communication & Sport, 3(3), 261287. doi:10.1177/2167479515588761

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eisenhood, C. (2020, February 27). USA Ultimate, ESPN re-sign three year deal. Ultiworld. Retrieved from https://ultiworld.com/2020/02/27/usa-ultimate-espn-re-sign-three-year-deal/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ESPN execs: ‘Fuck it, air the dogfighting’. (2020, April 3). The Onion. Retrieved from https://sports.theonion.com/espn-execs-fuck-it-air-the-dogfighting-1842661538

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Freeman, M. (2001). ESPN: The uncensored history. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing.

  • Guthrie, M. (2013, September 13). How sports networks without NFL games program around them. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/nfl-games-how-sports-networks-625387

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Healey, T. (2020, May 29). ESPN, MLB Network to air MLB draft next month. Newsday. Retrieved from https://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mlb-draft-espn-mlb-network-1.45053464

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • James, L. (2020, April 28). Letter to Altice USA, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, DISH Network, RCN Corporation, and Verizon Communications. New York State Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved from https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/all.pdf

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krulewitz, J. (2020, March 17). The challenge is that now we need to replicate that dynamic 24 hours a day, seven days a week across multiple networks. ESPN Front Row. Retrieved from https://www.espnfrontrow.com/2020/03/the-challenge-is-that-now-we-need-to-replicate-that-dynamic-24-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week-across-multiple-networks/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kunz, W.M. (2020). The political economy of sports television. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Larson, E., & Palmeri, C. (2020, April 29). New York says cut cable fees since there are no live sports. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-29/cable-fees-for-live-sports-should-be-cut-amid-crisis-n-y-says

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCarthy, M. (2020, March 18). Classic game replays on tap as networks dig deep into sport archives. Front Office Sports. Retrieved from https://frntofficesport.com/mlb-network-nhl-network-classic-games/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oates, T.P. (2004). On the block: Race, gender, and power in the NFL draft (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/114

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oates, T.P. (2009). New media and the repackaging of NFL Fandom. Sociology of Sport Journal, 26(1), 3149. doi:10.1123/ssj.26.1.31

  • Ourand, J. (2016, May 2). Does media rights bubble have a leak? SportsBusiness Journal. Retrieved from https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2016/05/02/In-Depth.aspx

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Programming. (ca. 1981). [Clipping from unidentified ESPN promotional materials]. NFL draft clippings file, Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center, Canton, OH.

    • Export Citation
  • Rosenthal, P. (2018, April 30). NFL draft a reminder LeBron James and NBA still far from overtaking pro football. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/ct-spt-nfl-draft-ratings-vs-nba-lebron-james-20180430-story.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Serazio, M. (2019). The power of sports: Media and spectacle in American culture. New York, NY: NYU Press.

  • Sturm, D. (2020). Fans as e-participants? Utopia/dystopia visions for the future of digital sport fandom. Convergence. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1354856520907096

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Taylor, T.L. (2018). Watch me play: Twitch and the rise of game live streaming. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Tussey, E. (2020). Pardon the interruption: sports debate. In E. Thompson & J. Mittell (Eds.), How to watch television (2nd ed., pp. 372381). New York, NY: NYU Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Valenzuela, S. (2020, April 21). Virtual WNBA Draft a ratings hit for ESPN with Sabrina Ionescu to the Liberty leading the way. New York Daily News. Retrieved from https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/ny-wnba-draft-20200421-ic3ozfmexbgabetzh6vexu6yha-story.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vogan, T. (2015). ESPN: The making of a sports media empire. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

  • Vogan, T. (2018). ABC Sports: The rise and fall of network sports television. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 9 9 0
Full Text Views 153 153 30
PDF Downloads 72 72 21