Save ABC Sports/Dump ESPN sign now

Like its longtime competitors CBS Sports and NBC Sports, ABC Sports was originally just the sports division of a major American network, ABC. The seeds of its eventual integration with ESPN occurred when the cable network's majority owner Capital Cities Communications bought ABC in 1985. Although some ESPN sportscasters such as John Saunders and Dick Vitale began to also appear on ABC Sports telecasts, ESPN and ABC Sports continued to operate seperately.

After the The Walt Disney Company bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, Disney started to slowly integrate ESPN and ABC Sports. ESPN personalities like Chris Berman, Mike Tirico, and Brad Nessler worked on ABC Sports programs. In 1998, ESPN adopted ABC Sports' Monday Night Football graphics and music for its Sunday Night Football broadcasts. During that same year, ESPN signed a five year deal to televise National Hockey League (NHL) games, also letting the cable network to essentially buy time on ABC to air selected NHL games. This was noted in copyright beds at the conclusion of the telecasts, i.e. "The Preceding Program has been paid for by ESPN, Inc." ESPN then signed a similar television rights contract in 2002 so it could produce and broadcast National Basketball Association (NBA) games on ABC.

Between 2000-2002, many ABC Sports programs utilized graphics almost identical to those of ESPN. Until 2004, ABC used the exact same graphics as ESPN for college basketball, NBA and NHL games (with the lone differences being the time/score graphic and the ABC Sports logo replacing ESPN's). One notable exception was Monday Night Football, which switched to different graphics as part of then-new producer Don Ohlmeyer's attempt to provide some new vigor into those telecasts. From 2002 to 2005, ABC changed graphics each fall, while ESPN's basically remained consistent.

Meanwhile, Disney continued to consolidate the corporate structure of ESPN and ABC Sports. Steve Bornstein was given the title as president of both ESPN and ABC Sports in 1996. The sales, marketing, and production departments of both divisions were eventually merged.

Around this same period, ABC junked the long running anthology format of "Wide World of Sports" in favor of a vague umbrella title for ABC's weekend sports programming. Part of this could be contributed with the rise of cable television offering more outlets for sports programming (i.e. ESPN).

It was announced in 2006 that ABC Sports would be totally integrated into ESPN, using ESPN graphics, music, and production. The brand integration does not directly affect whether ESPN (the cable channel) or ABC carries a particular event, as in most cases this is governed by contracts with the applicable league or organization.

The last live sporting event televised by ABC Sports was the United States Championship Game in the Little League World Series on Saturday, August 26, 2006 (ABC was slated to carry the Little League World Series Championship Game on Sunday, August 27, but the game was postponed to Monday August 28 due to rain, subsequently airing on ESPN2).

Interestingly, in June 2005, after ESPN absorbed most of ABC Sports operations, president George Bodenheimer made this comment:

". . .anybody looking for the demise of ABC Sports is barking up the wrong tree."

Words from Keith Jackson to leave you with:

"It was inevitable. When ABC was sold to Capital Cities, and then to Disney, the handwriting was on the wall. A lot of people worked to make ABC what it was, and they deserve more than to have their legacy callously tossed aside."

Capital Cities' refused to fully back bids by Dennis Swanson, Roone Arledge's successor, to acquire the TV rights to the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics, which were signature purchases for NBC. According to Jackson, Capital Cities didn't just short, they cut him off. The last Olympic Games that ABC televised were the 1988 Winter Olympics from Calgary.

In recent years, ABC Sports has progressively degenerated with the loses of "Monday Night Football" (after 36 years of service), the Bowl Championship Series (to FOX), Major League Baseball (first to CBS after 1989 and then after 1995 when ABC abandoned "The Baseball Network" revenue-sharing experiement with NBC).

See also:,2777,DRMN_23962_4950218,00.html

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