- For the Canadian channel of this name, see ESPN Classic (Canada). For the British channel, see ESPN Classic (UK). For the Italian channel, see ESPN Classic (Italy).
ESPN Classic logo
(as Classic Sports Network)
|Owned by||ESPN Inc.
(The Walt Disney Company (80%)
Hearst Corporation (20%))
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Formerly called||Classic Sports Network (1995–2000)|
ESPN on ABC
ESPN Classic in Europe
|Dish Network||Channel 143|
|OTE TV (Greece)||Channel 308|
|Cyfrowy Polsat (Poland)||Channel 17|
|Cyfra+ (Poland)||Channel 127|
|Verizon FiOS||Channel 71|
|UPC Poland||Channel 570|
|Vectra (Poland)||Channel 225|
|Available on most other cable systems||Check local listings for details|
ESPN Classic is an American digital cable and satellite television network owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and Hearst Corporation (which owns 20%). The channel features reruns of famous sporting events, sports documentaries, and sports-themed movies. Such programs include biographies of famous sports figures or a rerun of a marquee World Series or Super Bowl game, often with added commentary on the event.
As of August 2013, approximately 30,715,000 American households (26.9% of households with television) receive ESPN Classic.1
The channel was launched in 1995 as Classic Sports Network, founded by Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg (who both went on to launch CSTV (now CBS Sports Network)), with partial funding from Allen & Company. In 2000, ESPN, Inc. purchased Classic Sports Network for $175 million2 and rebranded as ESPN Classic. Throughout its history, dating back to Classic Sports Network, the channel's logo has incorporated a stylized silhouette intending to resemble a boxer.
In February 2008, a The Wall Street Journal reported that NFL Network chief executive Steve Bornstein was been in “high-level discussions” with NFL and Disney executives including CEO Robert Iger and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. An analyst quoted in the report suggested a merger of NFL Network with ESPN Classic due to the latter's wide distribution on expanded basic cable tiers.3 Though a consolidation of the two channels has not yet materialized, ESPN's networks and NFL Network have begun sharing programming (for instance, an episode of NFL's Greatest Games may air on NFL Network one night, then air on ESPN2 the next).
On August 4, 2009, Dish Network filed a federal lawsuit against ESPN for $1 million, alleging that the network breached its contract by not extending the same contractual term of carriage that ESPN provided to Comcast and DirecTV for ESPNU and ESPN Classic. The lawsuit claimed that ESPN violated the "Most Favored Nations" clause.4 The following day, representatives for ESPN announced in a press release that they would fight the lawsuit, stating: "We have repeatedly advised Dish that we are in full compliance with our agreement and have offered them a distribution opportunity with respect to ESPNU and ESPN Classic consistent with the rest of the industry. We will not renegotiate settled contracts and will vigorously defend this legal action, the apparent sole purpose of which is to get a better deal."5
- See also ESPN significant programming rights
In a cost-cutting move, ESPN Classic's schedule (as of December 2008) is now largely composed of ESPN original programming, highlighting sports such as poker, bowling, and boxing, with less emphasis on rebroadcasting classic major league sporting events (a practice which has, however, been adopted by sports networks associated with a league or individual teams, among other channels). Since 2005, the channel has also frequently broadcast overflow programming from the main ESPN channels, and reruns of ESPN-produced telecasts of recent sporting events that the network has declared an "Instant Classic".
ESPN Classic was the only U.S.-based ESPN network (and one of two Disney-owned cable channels in the U.S., alongside ABC Family) that aired infomercials, which run daily from 6 to 7 a.m. ET. As of May 20, 2012, ESPN Classic is the only remaining ESPN-branded network and the only cable channel owned by Disney that does not operate a high definition simulcast channel, due to the majority of its content being vintage footage produced before the existence of high definition television; outside of specific programming available in widescreen, the channel airs all programming in the 4:3 aspect ratio. It is also the only ESPN network that is not available on the network's WatchESPN app for mobile devices.
Older sports programming from the 1990s and earlier have moved almost entirely to league-specific networks including the Big Ten Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, NFL Network, The Tennis Channel, or various team-owned regional sports networks.
As of 2011, the channel has drifted toward reruns of entertainment series in prime time, while movies (mostly ESPN Films productions and documentaries such as the 30 for 30 series) make up the majority of ESPN Classic's weekend schedule. The majority of "classic" sports events in ESPN Classic's program library are college football and basketball games from the past decade.
The first live event to be shown on ESPN Classic was the implosion of the Seattle Kingdome in March 2000. By 2005 however, ESPN Classic began to broadcast more live sporting events, such as special "ESPN Classic Live" telecasts of college basketball games that featured veteran commentators and older-styled graphics. At this time, ESPN Classic also began to be used as an overflow channel for programming that could not be shown on ESPN or ESPN2 due to scheduling conflicts (these have since been moved to ESPNEWS); these have included additional college football and basketball games, the "ESPN Classic Game of the Week" (a Sunday rebroadcast of a ESPN/ABC-televised college football game from the past Saturday), IRL events, live coverage of selected HBCU games (especially since the term "classic" is used for special neutral-site HBCU games), and tape-delayed UEFA Champions League soccer games.
Examples of live sporting events broadcast by ESPN Classic due to scheduling overruns on ESPN or ESPN2, include the following from the third quarter of 2007:
- A WNBA basketball game between the Sacramento Monarchs and the Seattle Storm on July 31 (originally aired on ESPN2, it was moved due to a game in which Barry Bonds attempted to tie the all-time Major League Baseball home run record and ESPN's airing of an episode of The Bronx is Burning). Also, Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference Final between the Phoenix Mercury and the San Antonio Silver Stars on August 30 aired on ESPN Classic, as ESPN2 aired a college football game between the University of Tulsa and University of Louisiana at Monroe (as a sidebar, the WNBA did not want the game to start at the originally-scheduled time of 10 p.m. ET as it was being played in San Antonio, Texas, where it would have aired at 9 p.m. local time; had the game started at 10 p.m., it would have aired on ESPN2).
- The Firestone Indy 400 IndyCar race on August 5 (which was moved from ESPN2 due to a rain delay)
- Two preliminary round games of USA Basketball in the FIBA Americas Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 22 and 23 and a semifinal between the USA and Puerto Rico on September 1 (ESPN2 had obtained rights, but had other program commitments)
- The third quarter of the WNBA playoff game between the Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun on August 23, 2007. Again, this was scheduled for ESPN2, but a Little League World Series game preceded it. After an entire half went untelevised, ESPN Classic decided to pull a rebroadcast of a Major League Soccer game in favor of replacing ESPN2 as Chinese Taipei and Japan continued a game that went very long by Little League standards. Japan would win the game in 10 innings, and ESPN2 picked up the coverage in the fourth quarter. Ironically, the WNBA game would set a record for longest playoff game as the Sun defeated the Fever in triple overtime.
- Two Champ Car World Series races in September and one in October.
Since then, these games or events have been shown live on ESPN Classic:
- The 2008 Indy Japan 300, which was won by Danica Patrick (the first female winner of an IndyCar event).
- The entirety of the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Lipton Tea 250. The race was simulcasted with Speed and ESPN360.com, as ESPN2 was obligated to an NBA playoff game during the scheduled time of the race (ESPN2 would later join the race in progress and air it in its entirety on tape delay). In addition, the network had planned to air the 2008 Sharpie Mini 300, picking up the coverage from ABC, had it continued; however, NASCAR called the race before its conclusion (171 out of 300 laps) because of rain. Clint Bowyer was declared the race winner.
- The College World Series game between the University of Georgia and Fresno State University on June 22, 2008, as there were a couple of days of rain-outs, and due to a baseball game being broadcast on ESPN, and a drag racing event being televised on ESPN2, the game was forced to air on ESPN Classic.
- The following World Cup qualifying matches: United States and Cuba on October 11, 2008, the November 19 match between the United States and Guatemala, and the USA-El Salvador match on September 5, 2009.
- The opening five minutes of the Winter X Games, on January 30, 2010. The event aired on ESPN2 a few minutes later, due to a runover of an Indiana-Illinois basketball game.
- The first hour of a college baseball Super Regional division series game between Texas A&M and Florida State University on June 11, 2011, due to a rain delay of a game between the University of Virginia and University of California-Irvine.
ESPN Classic was also the official broadcaster of the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony until 2009 (when it moved to MLB Network). On August 25, 2012, ESPN Classic aired an Atlantic League baseball game between the Sugar Land Skeeters and Bridgeport Bluefish; featuring Roger Clemens as a starting pitcher for the Skeeters.6
While not a live event, in 2008 ESPN Classic also notably broadcast a previously untelevised college basketball game played on January 23, 2008 between Baylor and Texas A&M, which Baylor won 116-110 in five overtimes. Due to an unlikely set of circumstances, the actual game, held at Reed Arena on the A&M campus, was never televised. ESPN Classic used the feeds from the arena's in-house cameras, normally used to allow highlights to be displayed on Jumbotron screens, and the original play-by-play and commentary from A&M's radio broadcasters to create a complete telecast. The telecast aired on March 5, 2008 on ESPN Classic before the rematch between the two teams at Baylor aired on ESPN2.7
A recent development of ESPN Classic is a series of specials in which fan balloting determines the greatest teams in the history of particular sports. In March 2006, the 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels won the fan poll for best-ever college basketball team, in October 2006, the 1927 New York Yankees won for best Major League Baseball team, and in December 2006, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers won the fan poll for best-ever college football team.8
Each of these programs features expert analysis and live interactive voting online at ESPN.com. The first votes are cast one week before the scheduled live show, and balloting continues online and via text messaging until the end of the show.
On January 14, 2007, Deadspin.com reported that ESPN Classic would no longer develop or air original programming. It was not immediately clear what would replace such programs,9 however, it was assumed that shows that were already produced, but not yet aired, would be broadcast at least for a few more months.
Over the next few months, new episodes of Missing Link, Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame, and Ringside aired as scheduled. However, Missing Link was cancelled in June 2007, at which time production was also halted on the other two shows. The long-term future of ESPN Classic appears to be uncertain.
- AWA Championship Wrestling (originally aired on ESPN from 1986–1990)
- Battle of the Network Stars
- Bay City Blues
- 60 Minutes on Classic (2004–2008, in reruns)
- Friday Night Lights
- Global Supercard Wrestling (originally aired on ESPN from 1991-1994)
- Home Run Derby (2009–present)
- Jim Rome Classics
- The Joe Namath Show
- Long Way Down
- Reel Classics
- Ringside (2005–present)
- Schaap One-on-One
- Sunday Morning Classics
- The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame... (2009–present; originally aired on ESPN2 from 2005–2007)
- The Way It Was (2004–2006; 2009)
- The White Shadow
- Woodie's World
- Who's No. 1?
- Wide World of Sports
- 2 Minute Drill
- American Gladiators (2007–2009, originally aired in syndication from 1989–1996)
- Celebrity Bowling (2010)
- Cheap Seats
- Classic Now (2005–2006)
- ESPN Classic Remembers
- Fantasy Insider
- Greatest Sports Legends
- Instant Classic
- Missing Link (2007)
- NCAA on Campus (formerly on Fox Sports Net, currently on CBS College Sports)
- NFL Films (currently on NFL Network)
- SportsCenter of the Decade
- Sports Challenge
- Stump the Schwab
- UWF Wrestling (2008, originally aired on ESPN2 in 1995)
- This Week In Baseball
In a recurring series of Saturday Night Live skits, ESPN Classic is parodied. The scenes are archived obscure women's sportscasts from the 1980s such as bowling, weight lifting and curling, with announcers who know nothing about the sport, and instead focus on promoting the sponsors, which were always women's hygiene products.
- Seidman, Robert (August 23, 2013). "List of How Many Homes Each Cable Networks Is In - Cable Network Coverage Estimates As Of August 2013". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Whitford, David (May 25, 2010). "The king of the sports deal". Fortune. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
- Barrett, Larry (2008-06-21). "ESPN, NFL Network To Partner: Report". Multichannel News. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
- Dish Sues ESPN Over Classic, ESPNU Carriage Terms - Satellite Operator Alleges Programmer Violated ‘Most-Favored Nations' Contract Clause
- ESPN: We'll Fight Dish Lawsuit - Sports Programmer Maintains It's In ‘Full Compliance' On Carriage Contract For ESPNU, Classic
- "Roger Clemons talks about comeback with independent team". ESPN.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Associated Press (2008-03-04). "Viewers get to see Baylor-Texas A&M five-overtime game at last". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
- Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/sports/custom/extras/la-spw-tvcol8dec08,0,5069626.story?coll=la-sports-extras
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved May 2, 2010.dead link
- Espn: ESPN Continues To Axe Things You Probably Don't Watch