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[[caption-width:200:The Worldwide Leader in Sports]]
ESPN, which stands for the '''E'''ntertainment and '''S'''ports '''P'''rogramming '''N'''etwork, was the USA's first 24-hour sports network, and as a network dedicated solely to the sports fan, they have never [[Creator/{{NBC}} interrupted a game for regularly scheduled programming, interrupted a]] ''[[Creator/{{NBC}} playoff]]'' [[Creator/{{NBC}} game for pre-race coverage of the Kentucky Derby,]] [[{{FOX}} or carried multiple games at the same time while blacking out every out-of-market game being played at the time, regardless of whether or not it was one of the games they were carrying]]. They ''do'', however, shamelessly shill for the superstar athletes, including breaking into coverage in order to show live look-ins at Barry Bonds's at-bats when he was chasing Hank Aaron's record, doing the same thing with Manny Ramirez's ''rehab appearances in the minors'' when coming back from a 50-game suspension for PED use, actively televising Roger Clemens's minor league rehab starts when he decided to un-retire midseason and then his starts for an ''independent'' minor league team when he tried to unretire at age 50 to delay his Hall of Fame eligibility an additional 5 years, and letting [=LeBron=] James spend an hour telling us which team he'll play for in the next year, something done by every other athlete and team via a one-page press release. They are often accused of being biased towards teams from certain regions--usually the Boston and New York teams, perhaps understandable due to their Connecticut home (a common nickname for ESPN is the Eastern Sports Promotion Network), but also the L.A. Dodgers, the L.A. Lakers, USC, the Cubs, the Heat, sports that are not hockey, and whatever team Brett Favre decided to play for. There is a series of memes depicting them as the Tim Tebow network. But enough about their common criticisms...

ESPN and its many affiliated networks, [=ESPN2, ESPNews=], [[DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment ESPN Deportes]], ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Plus (which syndicates sports events to local TV stations), ESPN America (a European network that shows US and Canadian sports), ESPN UK (which scored a slice of the domestic English Premiership after the demise of Setanta Sports-- Craig Ferguson's dream come true!), TSN (Canada's ESPN) and ESPN 3D, along with online affiliate [[strike:ESPN360.com]] [=ESPN3.com=], broadcast sports and sports news around the world. (Yes, even ESPN Classic has the occasional live broadcast, usually when there are so many games going on at once that there wouldn't be enough space otherwise--like the end of the college football season. Also the aforementioned 50-year-old Roger Clemens' first start for the Sugar Land Skeeters.) They currently hold the broadcast rights to MondayNightFootball, one baseball game a week on Sunday nights (exclusive; they also simulcast other games that are also broadcast on the teams' regional sports networks), 4 NBA games a week (or was it six?), the World Series of Poker, and the majority of college sports including all but two college football bowl games. Also most of the early rounds of major tennis tournaments (and almost all of the Australian and French Opens, shared with Tennis Channel), the entirety of the World Baseball Classic, and, under the umbrella title ''ESPN on ABC'', any sporting event broadcast on Creator/{{ABC}}, a sister company under the grand unifying banner of [[{{Disney}} the Walt Disney Company]]--and yes, this includes the [[SeriousBusiness later rounds of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee]], the earlier rounds of which are broadcast on ESPN. [=ESPN2=] used to broadcast even ''more'' obscure stuff in its early years, most notably ''MagicTheGathering'' tournaments (yes, seriously), perhaps keying in on the "E" in ESPN, but in recent years has become more mainstream, which means obscure sports will have to find a new home, like [[{{Dodgeball}} the Ocho]]. (Incidentally, ESPN originally was conceived as a 24-hour version of ABC's WideWorldOfSports. And then, so was [=ESPN2=].)

ESPN's signature show is ''SportsCenter'', which has been running multiple episodes per night since the network launched in September of 1979. [[LongRunners This means there are over 30,000 episodes of]] ''SportsCenter'', primarily of the hour-long variety, and more commonly longer than shorter. Specialized versions of [=SportsCenter=] for other major sports are common, most notably ''Baseball Tonight'', ''NBA Fastbreak'', ''College [=GameDay=]'' (football and basketball-flavored), and ''NFL Countdown'' (Sunday and Monday versions). Other shows include ''Mike and Mike In the Morning'' (Simulcast with ESPN Radio), ''ESPN First Take'' (formerly ''Cold Pizza''), ''Series/JimRomeIsBurning'', ''Series/AroundTheHorn'', ''Series/PardonTheInterruption'', ''Series/SportsNation'', ''Series/NumbersNeverLie'' and ''Series/DanLeBatardIsHighlyQuestionable'', which are eight different varieties of having people [[LargeHam spouting off sports opinions]] [[NoIndoorVoice in loud voices]], which is probably the ''coolest job ever''. (Add in ''ESPN Radio'''s lineup with The Herd, SVP and Rusillo, Coach and Company, and Hill and Schlereth, and you've got twelve.) However, there are limits to how loud and abrasive you're allowed to be in opinionating, as evidenced by the failure of ''Quite Frankly with Steven A. Smith'' (Which also means Jim Rome must have mellowed out some from his days of provoking fights by equating football players to tennis players). Liberal political commentator KeithOlbermann got his start as a [=SportsCenter=] anchor (and returned to do his own sports show in 2013). Former late-night talk show host Craig Kilborn is also an ESPN alum, as are ''Good Morning America'' anchors Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott.

ESPN also has their own magazine, published every other week since 1998. It generally takes a more humorous approach than other sporting magazines, and even managed to snag Rick Reilly away from ''Magazine/SportsIllustrated'' in order to facilitate this, although ''SI'' managed to exact ''some'' measure of revenge by grabbing longtime ESPN personality Dan Patrick. Still, judging by the state of the back page of ''SI'' since Reilly left, it seems ESPN got the better end of the deal. (Speaking of deals, when ''Monday Night Football'' moved from Creator/{{ABC}} to ESPN, Disney traded Al "Do You Believe In Miracles?" Michaels to NBC Universal for the rights to an old WaltDisney character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, something he found amusing. Again, all true, and Oswald's return to the fold is being marked by a prominent part in ''EpicMickey''.)

In the early 00s, ESPN opened up an Original Entertainment wing, for original movies and tv shows. This led to the short-lived cult poker themed series ''Tilt'' and the brilliant football themed series ''Playmakers'', which sadly was canceled because pressure from the NFL (the league was not happy with the way the show featured the seedier side of professional football). The backlash from the cancellation of ''Playmakers'', along with the bombing of ''Tilt'', killed any hopes of further series as critics accused ESPN of caving to pressure, resulting in them refocusing their efforts into TV movies ( ''A Season on the Brink'' (about Bobby Knight, who is now an ESPN analyst), ''The Junction Boys'' (about Paul "Bear" Bryant's first summer at Texas A&M), ''3: The Dale Earnhardt Story'' ([[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Self-explanatory]]),) as well as mini-serieses such as ''The Bronx is Burning'' (A miniseries about the Yankees' turbulent 1977 season), and ''Four Minutes'' (about Roger Bannister running the first 4-minute mile in 1954). Their "30 for 30" series, created by columnist BillSimmons and featuring 30 short films on a variety of subjects, done by professional filmmakers, has been critically acclaimed.

''This article has been a presentation of ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports. For more information, visit [[http://www.espn.com ESPN.com]].''
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