When Bill Rasmussen launched the Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN) in 1979, people in the TV industry called him crazy. More than 40 years later, however, ESPN is thriving, and there are dozens of other 24-hour sports networks available for fans of everything from football to fishing.
After getting fired from his job at the World Hockey Association, Rasmussen worked with a few fellow sports enthusiasts to create the first 30-minute sports program, which almost immediately grabbed a loyal audience. From there, Rasmussen and partner Ed Eagan set out to launch a full-time sports network. It was tough to raise the money and get cable and satellite networks to carry ESPN at first, but they were able to launch and had decent viewing numbers from the very start. From that ambitious beginning, 24-hour sports stations have grown into a multibillion dollar industry, with even extremely niche-focused sports networks pulling in millions in revenue.
One of the reasons 24-hour sports networks are so successful is that advertisers see live sports as "TiVo-proof" programming. Since watching sports is a social event for so many people, most sports fans aren't going to record a game to watch later -- they don't want to risk a spoiled ending by friends or coworkers who know the outcome of a big game.
Thanks to fan enthusiasm and the potential for high advertising revenue, 24-hour sports networks are booming. If your team's game isn't on the main ESPN channel, chances are you can catch it on one of the other dozens of 24-hour sports networks, like FOX Sports, CBS Sports or even one of the other multiple ESPN channels. There are even networks dedicated to reruns of classic sporting events, like ESPN Classic.
Not only have 24-hour sports networks made it easier for fans to follow their favorite teams, but they've also shaped the culture of sports by changing what we watch, how we watch and where we watch. Read on to learn more.