ESPN: The Uncensored Story

In Books, Television by Brock Bourgase

Michael Freeman’s book about the birth of ESPN offers many lessons about entrepreneurship and marketing, largely focused on persistence and the benefits of competition. Many people turned down the concept of a 24/7 sports network yet the founder Bill Rasmussen kept pushing because he believed that he had a good idea. The networks at the time were extremely myopic in their vision for the future of television which permitted cable networks like ESPN, CNN, and HBO to steal countless viewers, talent, and advertising revenue.

Whilst the new blue-chip brand’s humble beginnings were fascinating, the amount of alcoholism, sexual harassment, gambling, and drug abuse were quite dismaying. It goes to show, I suppose, that workplace stress can really take a toll and that it is important to support employees. According to one anecdote, employees who had been drinking in the studio and were forced to continue the habit outside by the satellite dishes only stopped because a rumour spread that drinking near the dishes could cause infertility.

ESPN Senior V.P. and Executive Editor changed a great deal in the company to keep it relevant and innovative and make it more professional. The company is hardly perfect but it identified a target market and catered to it to become a worldwide success. The book was entertaining at times but boring during other chapters. ESPN: The Uncensored Story would have benefited from a more concise writing style, but it was worth the $5.99 at BMV Books.