” ESPN’s 30th Anniversary is on the horizon, and who better to talk about ESPN overall – past, present and future – than some of our own ESPN veterans?
Longtime SportsCenter anchor Bob Ley joined fellow veteran anchor Chris Berman, and long-time employee Chuck Pagano, (Executive VP, Technology) via virtual reality for a groundbreaking demonstration in this morning’s session at the ESPN Media Workshop. It was the first time a display of this new technology has been seen by the public, as the debut is slated for next spring.
The demonstration vividly illustrates just how far ESPN has come in the past 30 years, from a small cable network working out of a remote production truck to a now well-known Worldwide Leader in Sports entertainment. You can’t help but wonder just how far ESPN will go in the next 30 years.
Back in 1979, technology was limited, and cable television itself was a relatively new thing. It was nearly all experimental at the time, and it was being figured out as ESPN came onto the scene.
“No one knew what cable TV was, how it happened, or why it happened, but it did.” — Chris Berman
Berman and Ley cited two pivotal moments when they felt confident in ESPN’s ability to live in the cable television arena with longevity.
Ley recalls Johnny Carson mentioning ESPN’s coverage of Australian Rules Football in a monologue on his show in 1981. To Ley, it was huge. It clearly meant that people were watching to see what we had to offer, and they liked it.
Berman felt that when ESPN began covering the NFL Draft in 1987, it was a sign that we were here to stay.
And stay we did. Throughout the 1980s ESPN continued to grow along with the cable industry, and with sporting events from Australian Rules Football – which Berman characterizes as “organized mayhem” – to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, ESPN is now a staple in sports fans’ lives.
However, times are changing, as are viewers’ expectations for what they will see. As ESPN looks ahead at what the next 30 years might hold, technology remains key.
“The Business will be changing. Things like higher quality and bigger displays at home for viewing, social interactivity and 3D television will change our viewing habits. New technology puts you in the game, and we want to be the leaders there. Whatever the consumer wants, we’re here to give it to them.” – Chuck Pagano
Virtual reality is just the tip of the iceberg, and ESPN believes the sky is the limit. While good journalism is important and a basic component of what ESPN does, all journalism needs to have an entertainment portion to get people to tune in and stay there. With the 2010 World Cup in the works, ESPN wants to bring remote production to a whole new level. Technology such as virtual reality, HD and 3D are seen as tools to help not only entice viewers with a better quality viewing experience, but to enhance the stories being told.
It’s this type of thinking outside the box and looking toward the future that has contributed to ESPN’s growth through the past 30 years. It will continue to shape how we grow long into our future, as we expand domestically and globally.
While ESPN has grown so tremendously since its inception in 1979, the feeling within the company, from new employees to long-time veterans such as Berman, Ley and Pagano, is a healthy, realistic view of ESPN’s role in the cable and sports industries.
“We’re learning as we go still, and we don’t know all the answers … but we’re looking to find them. We aim to stay ahead of things, be honest with the fans and tell them what they want to know. It’s the best we can do.” – Chris Berman “