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ESPN on ABC logo, September 2006-Present


ESPN on ABC (formerly ABC Sports) is the brand used for sports programming on the ABC television network. Officially the broadcast network retains its own sports division; however, for all practical purposes, ABC's sports coverage has been delegated to ESPN, a sports cable network majority-owned by ABC's parent, The Walt Disney Company.

ABC broadcasts use ESPN's production and announcing staff, and incorporate elements such as ESPN-branded on-screen graphics, SportsCenter in-game updates, and the BottomLine ticker. The ABC logo is used for the digital on-screen graphic in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, and is also used for promotions so that viewers will know to tune into the broadcast network and not the ESPN cable channel.

Prior to September 2, 2006, the broadcast network's coverage carried the ABC Sports brand, although integration of ABC's sports division with ESPN had begun several years earlier. The branding change was made to better orient ESPN viewers with the programming on ABC and provide consistent branding across ESPN's outlets (shortly thereafter, ESPN2's in-game graphics were likewise changed to refer simply to "ESPN"). Despite its name, ABC's sports coverage is supplemental to and not a simulcast of ESPN, although ESPN and ESPN2 will often carry ABC's regional broadcasts that otherwise wouldn't air in certain markets.

History

Pre-Disney

Like its longtime competitors CBS Sports and NBC Sports, ABC Sports was originally just the sports division of a major American network, ABC. The seeds of its eventual integration with ESPN occurred when ABC bought majority control of ESPN in 1984. A year later, Capital Cities Communications bought ABC. Although some ESPN sportscasters such as John Saunders and Dick Vitale began to also appear on ABC Sports telecasts, ESPN and ABC Sports continued to operate separately.

Late 1990s: Disney purchase and integration

After The Walt Disney Company bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, Disney started to slowly integrate ESPN and ABC Sports. ESPN personalities like Chris Berman, Mike Tirico, and Brad Nessler worked on ABC Sports programs. In 1998, ESPN adopted ABC Sports' Monday Night Football graphics and music for its Sunday Night Football broadcasts. During that same year, ESPN signed a five year deal to televise National Hockey League (NHL) games, whereby the cable network essentially bought time on ABC to air selected NHL games. This was noted in copyright beds at the conclusion of the telecasts, i.e. "The preceding program has been paid for by ESPN, Inc." ESPN then signed a similar television rights contract in 2002 so it could produce and broadcast National Basketball Association (NBA) games on ABC.

Early 2000s: Continued integration

Alternate ABC Sports logo, 2001-2006
Between 2000-2002, many ABC Sports programs utilized graphics almost identical to those of ESPN. One notable exception was Monday Night Football, which switched to different graphics as part of then-new producer Don Ohlmeyer's attempt to provide some new vigor into those telecasts. From 2002 to 2005, ABC changed graphics each fall, while ESPN's basically remained consistent.

Meanwhile, Disney continued to consolidate the corporate structure of ESPN and ABC Sports. Steve Bornstein was given the title as president of both ESPN and ABC Sports in 1996. The sales, marketing, and production departments of both divisions were eventually merged. Thus, ESPN uses some union production crews for its coverage (as the networks normally do), whereas non-union personnel is quite common in cable sports broadcasting.

Late 2000s: The end of ABC Sports

It was announced in August 2006 that ABC Sports would be totally integrated into ESPN, using ESPN graphics, music, and production. The brand integration does not directly affect whether ESPN (the cable channel) or ABC carries a particular event, as in most cases this is governed by contracts with the applicable league or organization. Perhaps confusingly, this means that some events are broadcast with ESPN branding during ABC coverage, even though another channel owns the cable rights – for example, TNT owned cable rights to the British Open from 2003 to 2009 (with ABC picking up weekend coverage), while IndyCar Series rights are currently split between ABC and Versus.

The last live sporting event televised under the ABC Sports banner was the United States Championship Game in the Little League World Series on Saturday, August 26, 2006 (ABC was slated to carry the Little League World Series Championship Game on Sunday, August 27, but the game was postponed to Monday August 28 due to rain, subsequently airing on ESPN2). The changeover took effect the following weekend to coincide with the start of the college football season, with NBA, IndyCar Series, and NASCAR coverage eventually following suit.

However, ABC used its own graphics (with the ABC logo), to cover the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, similar to the older-styled ESPN graphics but with a yellow base. In 2008, though, it used the newer yellow and red ESPN graphics which had been used on other recent telecasts.

Despite the rebranding, it appears that ABC Sports continues to exist, at least nominally, as a division of the ABC network – George Bodenheimer's official title has remained "president, ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports". In addition, ABC itself maintains the copyright over many of the ESPN-branded broadcasts, if they are not contractually assigned to the applicable league or organizer, suggesting that ESPN has merely "loaned" usage of its brand name, staff, and infrastructure to ABC, rather than having acquired ABC Sports outright. This is likely a minor technicality stemming from ESPN being technically a joint venture of Disney (80%) and Hearst Corporation (20%), even though Hearst is believed to be more of a silent partner rather than an active participant in ESPN's management.Who chooses the games on channels? ABC does not own ESPN. ESPN does not own ABC. Walt Disney owns them both. ABC gets the local game, or best game, because cable does not have ESPN. ABC has Walt Disney's rights to use ESPN logos.

Taglines

From late 1980s to 2001, ABC Sports programs ended with the line "This has been a presentation of ABC Sports - Recognized around the world as the leader in sports television." Beginning in 2001, ABC changed the tagline to "ABC Sports - Championship Television," in regards to ABC's sports lineup (which included the BCS championship, the MLS Cup final, the Stanley Cup Finals, rights to Super Bowl coverage, and would later include the NBA Finals). Ever since the ESPN on ABC integration, some broadcasters have said the slogan of ESPN - "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" at the end of each broadcast on ABC.

Programs throughout the years

Current programs



Former programs



Notable personalities









Main competitors



Quotes about the demise of ABC Sports

References

  1. SI.com - Writers - Richard Deitsch: ABC Sports to become 'ESPN on ABC' - Thursday August 10, 2006 8:01PM
  2. ESPN - 'ESPN on ABC' to debut during college football season - ESPN
  3. ABC press release, May 1, 2007
  4. For instance, the copyright disclaimers at the end of ABC's college football broadcasts read "©xxxx American Broadcasting Companies, Inc."


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