In its 30 years, ESPN has turned sports into a huge multimedia moneymaker. The network was started by Bill Rasmussen, an out-of-work sports announcer. After getting fired from his job as the play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League's New England Whalers, Rasmussen searched for ways to broadcast University of Connecticut basketball games. He rented satellite time and before long started to offer 24-hour sports programming nationally. The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network debuted on cable television on September 7, 1979. In 1985, that name was truncated to just ESPN.
In mid-1995, ESPN was bought by the Walt Disney Company for a reported $150 to $200 million, which gave the Mouse House an 80 percent interest in the sports channel. The Hearst Corporation, which had purchased ESPN in 1990 for an estimated $170 million, continues to own a 20 percent interest. In April 1996 Disney announced plans to combine ESPN and ABC Sports into a single operating entity. Today, ESPN's programming is received in more than 97 million households.
In addition to broadcasting a variety of live sporting events, ESPN offers news and analysis programs. It also creates original programming for TV and radio.