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For the Canadian channel of this name, see ESPN Classic . For the British channel, see ESPN Classic . For the Italian channel, see ESPN Classic .

ESPN Classic is a sports channel that features reruns of famous sporting events, sports documentaries, and sports themed movies. Such programs includes biographies of famous sports figures or a rerun of a famous World Series or Super Bowl, often with added commentary on the event. As of late 2009, ESPN Classic is the only remaining member of the ESPN family that is not available in high definition (one of only two overall Disney-owned networks, the other being SOAPnet), due to the majority of its content being vintage footage produced before the days of high definition television.

Launched in 1995 as Classic Sports Network by Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg, it was purchased and renamed by ESPN (80% owned by Disney, 20% owned by Hearst) in 1997. The current logo incorporates the "boxer" logo that Classic Sports Network used. (Bedol and Greenberg went on to found CSTV (now CBS College Sports Network).


See also ESPN significant programming rights

In a cost-cutting move, the schedule (as of December, 2008) is largely composed of ESPN original programming, highlighting sports such as poker, bowling, and boxing, with less emphasis on re-airing classic games of major-league sports such as NBA, NCAA, NHL, NASCAR, MLB, and NFL games.

Many of the major sporting events once aired on ESPN Classic are available on NBA TV, NFL Network, NHL Network, MLB Network, Fox College Sports, and Versus and regional sports networks associated with a group of or individual teams, among other channels.

In addition, the network presents some original programs (see below).

Despite the old-time feel of the network, ESPN Classic airs the network's standard Bottom Line with updates of current sports scores and news.

It is the only U.S.-based ESPN network (and one of two Disney-owned cable channels in the U.S.; ABC Family being the other) to air infomercials; they air from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET, seven days a week.

It has also changed from an emphasis on games of the distant past to games of the recent past. On many occasions, an event will have taken place within the current year. For example, during the college football season ESPN Classic selects the most interesting game of the week that aired on one of the ABC family of networks (which also includes ESPN, and ESPN2) and rebroadcasts it as an "Instant Classic."


Currently airing

Formerly airing

Broadcasting of live events

Previously used ESPN Classic Logo
The first live event to be shown on ESPN Classic was the implosion of the Seattlemarker Kingdomemarker in March 2000. More live sporting events have started appearing on the network as of 2005, including early-round grand slam tennis action and college football games due to either ESPN or ESPN2 scheduling conflicts. During ESPN's 25th anniversary, the network debuted ESPN Classic Live, special airings of College Basketball games complete with veteran commentators and old-style graphics. After late 2005 however, all live events on ESPN Classic began using the standard ESPN graphics package, and all in-game graphics began using only the ESPN branding in February 2007 as with most other ESPN networks. However, unlike the other ESPN networks, Classic keeps a "LIVE" legend on screen for the entirety of their live events to make it clear to viewers that it is not a "classic" game.

In September 2006, ESPN Classic began broadcasting same-day taped coverage of UEFA Champions League soccer games. These games air at 5 p.m. ET, shortly after a live game airs on ESPN2 at 2:45 p.m.

During September 2007, ESPN Classic aired the inaugural Champ Car World Series race at the Assen race coursemarker in the Netherlandsmarker live.. Later that year, it showed the inaugural race at the Zolder Circuit in Belgiummarker, and the annual event at Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Also in September, ESPN Classic began broadcasting live Saturday afternoon college football games on a weekly basis. The games are simulcast on broadcast television on stations affiliated with the teams involved with the game. There is also the "ESPN Classic Game of the Week, a rebroadcast of an ESPN/ESPN2/ABC live game, which shows every Sunday. Mike And Mike in the Morning was also seen on ESPN Classic during September, 2007 and again in January, 2008.

Starting on January 5, 2008, the network showed a weekly college basketball contest. The games are extensions of contracts ESPN has with various conferences, like the Big East, Big 12, and Mid-American.

Also in 2008, ESPN Classic began re-airing the most up-to-date NHRA and IRL races on Monday Mornings.

ESPN Classic was the exclusive live television home of the annual Baseball Hall of Famemarker induction ceremonies until 2009,when MLB Network gained the exclusive rights.

ESPN Classic will also continue to show sports events moved from ESPN or ESPN2 due to time overruns or other prior commitments. Examples include the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl and a number of NASCAR Countdown pre-race shows. (See also the Cessation of original programming section below.)

ESPN Classic showed a LSUmarker-Appalachian State College Football game on August 30, 2008 at 11:00am EST due to a change in schedule. The game was supposed to start at 5:00 PM on ESPN, but there were hurricane threats. (ESPN aired a simulcast of a Delawaremarker-Marylandmarker game from its sister station, ESPNU).

ESPN Classic also aired Army football and the SWAC Championship in 2008.

On October 25, 2008, ESPN Classic aired the Kroger On Track for the Cure 250, a NASCAR Nationwide Series event due to conflicts with college football and the Breeders' Cup. This broadcast was also simulcasted on Speed.

Fan interactive specials

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.

Each of these programs features expert analysis and live interactive voting online at 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.

Cessation of original programming

On January 14, 2007, reported that ESPN Classic would no longer create or air original programming. It was not immediately clear what would replace that programming, however, it was assumed that such shows 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 did air 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.

However, ESPN Classic still airs occasional live sporting events if neither ESPN nor ESPN2 are available to carry them. Some examples from the third quarter of 2007:

  • 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 there was a game in the Little League World Series preceding 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 Japanmarker 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.

Since then, these games or events have been shown live on ESPN Classic:

  • The entirety of the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Lipton Tea 250. The race was simulcasted with Speed and, 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 Georgiamarker and Fresno State Universitymarker on June 22, 2008, as there were a couple of days of rain-outs, and due to a baseball game on ESPN, and drag racing 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 only original program created by ESPN Classic since then is a re-created telecast of a January 23, 2008 college basketball contest between Baylormarker and Texas A&M, won by Baylor 116-110 in five overtimes. Due to an unlikely set of circumstances, the actual game, held at Reed Arenamarker 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 Baylormarker aired on ESPN2.

NFL Network Partnership

In a report from The Wall Street Journal Steve Bornstein, chief executive of the NFL Network, has 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 combining NFL Network with ESPN Classic which has a wide distribution on expanded basic cable line-ups but attracts a modest audience. ESPN could use its market weight and demand more than the 16 to 17 cents per month that it currently receives from ESPN Classic.

Dish Network lawsuit

On August 4, 2009 Dish Network sued ESPN for $1 million in a federal lawsuit, alleging that ESPN breached its contract by not extending the same carriage terms the programmer provided to Comcast and DirecTV for ESPNU and ESPN Classic. The lawsuit claims ESPN violated the "Most Favored Nations" clause.

The next day, ESPN announced they will fight the lawsuit and said in a press release: "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."


  1. Champ Car > Event Information The Netherlands
  4. Espn: ESPN Continues To Axe Things You Probably Don't Watch
  5. Dish Sues ESPN Over Classic, ESPNU Carriage Terms - Satellite Operator Alleges Programmer Violated ‘Most-Favored Nations' Contract Clause
  6. ESPN: We'll Fight Dish Lawsuit - Sports Programmer Maintains It's In ‘Full Compliance' On Carriage Contract For ESPNU, Classic

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