ESPN: Big Business and Sports Broadcasting

Widely recognized as a brand that has set the standard for excellence in sports broadcasting for more than thirty years, ESPN made history back in 1979 with the launch of its primary network, a bold move that would quickly alter the business of sports entertainment in a number of meaningful capacities. In the late 1970s, prior to the founding of the “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network,” fans across the country had few options when it came to following their favorite teams. Before ESPN introduced its forward-thinking, totally sports-centric schedule of prime time, late night, pro, and college games, scores for that day’s match could only be obtained in snippets and highlights during the evening news, or perhaps in the daily paper delivered the next morning.

Recognizing a national market for the type of sports-specific broadcasting no other network provided, a group of die-hard sports junkies in Bristol, Connecticut undertook a project that would change history and completely transform the television landscape over the course of the coming decades. Led by out-of-work sports announcer Bill Rasmussen, the starting team that guided ESPN through its early stages of operation included a young anchor, director, and producer named Jed Drake. Drake had already amassed an impressive resume when he joined the young network in 1980. A freelance Production Assistant for NBC Sports’ Baseball Game of the Week, he also supervised coverage of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games on behalf of NBC affiliate WPTZ-TV.

Jed Drake has applied his skills in a wide variety of positions throughout his tenure at ESPN. Serving as Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of Event Production today, Drake has played an integral role in building the company’s subscriber base to more than 97 million. With international programming in upwards of 180 countries, ESPN was valued at $28 billion in its 27th year of business, a number that speaks volumes about a network that defied the odds to become a giant in global sports media.

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