Twenty years ago tonight, ESPN introduced ESPN2, its “hip kid brother,” as the New York Times labeled it.
According to ESPN’s official chronology, ESPN2 was launched as a “differentiated 24-hour sports network to target young and active sports viewers with a mixture of event, news and lifestyle programming.”
The spinoff aired everything from the NHL to roller hockey alongside flagship programming such as SportsNight, the marquee studio program that featured, among others, Keith Olbermann, Suzy Kolber, Stuart Scott and Mitch Albom.
Especially in its early years, ESPN2 also provided a place for experimentation and innovation: Programs boasted titles such as RPM2Night and Talk2 as well as unconventional sets, graphics and music.
The network grew from being available in 10 million households initially to 75 million by 1998 and 99 million today.
ESPN2’s evolution helped the network present more coverage of major sports properties including the NFL Draft, tennis majors and FIFA World Cup.
For example, in 1994 ESPN and ESPN2 aired the entire NFL Draft for the first time (also the inaugural primetime Draft).
In 2005, ESPN2 provided continuous coverage through commercial breaks of an IndyCar race via a split screen – a television first.