Bill Rasmussen

Bill Rasmussen

Bill Rasmussen, the sports fan-turned broadcaster and entrepreneur, had the out-of-the-box idea of a 24-hour cable sports network, ESPN, and it changed forever the landscape of sports media. In 1978, Rasmussen, a former sports broadcaster and public relations executive, and his son Scott started investigating the just-emerging technology of satellite delivery of television. Naturally, their idea focused on a sports network. In time, business plan grew from a service showing Connecticut sports to state residents to a 24-hour national sports network. Bolstered with financial backing from the Getty Oil Co., a contract for programming with the NCAA and an advertising agreement with Anheuser-Busch – then the largest sponsorship deal in cable history – the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (changed to ESPN, Inc. in 1984) launched in 1.4 million homes at 7 p.m. ET on September 7, 1979. A short introduction was followed by the opening show, SportsCenter, hosted by Lee Leonard and George Grande. As ESPN’s founder and first president, Rasmussen shaped the early successes of the company and laid the foundation for its strong future. His passion for sports and love of innovation through both technology and creative programming remain ESPN hallmarks. In 1994, Rasmussen made Sports Illustrated’s “Forty for the Ages,” a listing of sports figures who significantly altered and elevated the world of sports in the second half of the 20th century. Also that year, USA Today called him “The Father of Sports Television.”
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