The phenomenon of televised sports, though around for years, has only become the mainstream obsession in the last 25 years with the advent and advancement of cable and satellite television. Cable, as we know it today, came into its own in the mid 80’s. Channels like the USA network and TBS starting up and only offered through a cable subscription, the new age of television selection was born. As with any consumer product, as the technology becomes available, and the demand grows, so do the choices and challenges as consumers decide what to watch.
As these new options in television became available, the demand for televised sports became more than the occasional special event on the big three networks. This demand gave rise to the need for a channel that could devote all of its programming to sports related events, the demand was there, and one company stepped up to fill the gap, the Entertainment Sports and Programming Network- ESPN. In 1984, ABC acquired ESPN, and just two years later they started broadcasting the NFL football games. By the time ABC had acquired ESPN, it was already the largest cable network channel in the US, and in 1985 they established ESPN international.
When ESPN announced that it would broadcast the Americas Cup Yachting event, advertisers bought up all the remaining time that ESPN had allotted, providing a solid foundation to propel it in the coming decade. As cable added channels to keep up with the demand, there was only one dominating sports channel to cover seemingly all the US sporting events- ESPN. The 1990’s continued the growth of cable channels, and as satellite tv became more common place, the options to view sporting events grew even larger. Perhaps the second great step forward for sports on television was the advent of Pay Per View (PPV).
With PPV, viewers could “buy” a sporting event and have access to that channel for only that one sporting event. The ease of PPV allowed customers to access these events without the assistance of a technician visiting the customers site to make it possible. By the spring of 1998, there were 171 channels available on cable and satellite television, of which many were geared toward sporting events, and even a new subculture called the X-Games (supported by ESPN), designed to attract the GenX viewers who enjoyed skateboarding and “alternative” sporting events.
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