[[caption-width-right:320:The Worldwide Leader in Sports]]

ESPN, which stands for the '''E'''ntertainment and '''S'''ports '''P'''rogramming '''N'''etwork, premiered in 1979 as 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,]] [[{{Creator/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 UsefulNotes/LeBronJames 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.[[note]]Including [=LeBron=] himself the ''next'' time he changed teams, though he instead wrote an essay for ''Sports Illustrated'' to tell the world "I'm coming home" (to Cleveland).[[/note]]

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]] (Spanish-language), ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN America (a European network that shows US and Canadian sports), BT Sport ESPN (originally 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 English-language ESPN), RDS (Canada's French-language ESPN) and ESPN 3D, along with online affiliates [[strike:ESPN360.com]] [=ESPN3.com=] and [=ESPN+=], 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.) The company also had a division known as ESPN Plus (spelled out, unlike the current streaming network that uses the plus sign) that syndicated sports events to local TV stations. However, thanks to the proliferation of competing outlets both within and outside the company, ESPN left the syndication business, converting that division to ESPN Events, a sports event planner. Needless to say, the events planned by that group, most notably a ridiculous number of [[UsefulNotes/CollegiateAmericanFootball college football bowl games]], are inevitably aired on ESPN networks.

They currently hold the broadcast rights to ''Series/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 one college football bowl game. [[labelnote:*]]The Sun Bowl is on CBS.[[/labelnote]] They also air 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 [[Creator/{{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 ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'' tournaments (yes, seriously), perhaps keying in on the "E" in ESPN. Because the channel has become more mainstream in recent years, obscure sports will have to find a new home, like [[Film/DodgeballATrueUnderdogStory the Ocho]]. (Incidentally, ESPN originally was conceived as a 24-hour version of ABC's ''Series/WideWorldOfSports''. And then, so was [=ESPN2=].)

ESPN's signature show is ''Series/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 ''Golic & Wingo'' (a morning show simulcast with ESPN Radio, formerly Mike & Mike until a change in hosts), ''Get Up'' (a morning show hosted by Mike Greenberg, who left the former Mike & Mike to host), ''ESPN First Take'' (formerly ''Cold Pizza''), ''Series/JimRomeIsBurning'' (until it ended), ''Series/AroundTheHorn'', ''Series/PardonTheInterruption'', ''Series/SportsNation'', ''Series/NumbersNeverLie'' and ''[[Series/DanLeBatardIsHighlyQuestionable Highly Questionable]]'', which are nine 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 Golic & Wingo, The Dan [=LeBatard=] Show (with Stugotz), the Stephen A. Smith show, and Spain & Fitz, and you've got thirteen.) 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'' (though he recovered to keep doing ''First Take'' along with the above-mentioned eponymous radio show). Liberal political commentator Creator/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 ''Series/GoodMorningAmerica'' anchors Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott. Other sports networks also host ESPN alumni (Dave Revsine and Mike Hall on the Big Ten Network, to name a couple... and Hall got his job on ESPN by winning ''Dream Job'', an [[ContestWinnerCameo ESPN reality show]].)

ESPN also has its 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 Creator/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 ''VideoGame/EpicMickey''.) In recent years, ''ESPN [[SpellMyNameWithAThe The]] Magazine'' has made an annual "Body Issue", with pictures of athletes in the nude (though no naughty bits are shown), which could be seen as a direct competitor to ''SI'''s Swimsuit Edition.[[note]]Though the Body Issue is far more inclusive than the Swimsuit Edition. ESPN features both men and women, regularly features at least one disabled athlete per issue, and has included legitimately elderly athletes (most notably golf great Gary Player in 2013, who at press time was about a month shy of ''78''.)[[/note]]

In the early 00s, ESPN opened up an Original Entertainment wing, for scripted 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 Bob Knight, who is now an ESPN analyst), ''The Junction Boys'' (about Paul "Bear" Bryant's first summer at Texas A&M), ''3: The Creator/DaleEarnhardt Story'' ([[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Self-explanatory]]),) as well as mini-series 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, a series of 30 documentaries on varying subjects, originally created in 2009 in celebration of ESPN's 30th anniversary by columnist [[Creator/TheSportsGuy Bill Simmons]], has been critically acclaimed, and has been in its third "season" since 2015. [[note]] Simmons, however, was let go by ESPN in May 2015, and the website ''Grantland'' he curated was also shut down a few months later. [[/note]] The five-part ''30 for 30'' documentary ''Film/OJMadeInAmerica'' ran for a week in theaters in Santa Monica and New York City before it aired on ESPN, a decision that allowed the series to win the UsefulNotes/AcademyAwardForBestDocumentaryFeature.

The network also hosts their own awards show, the ''[=ESPYs=]'', celebrating the best moments and athletes in sports in the past year. The show is traditionally taped on the day after the MLB All-Star Game, a day where none of the four major US sports has anything going on so as to ensure maximum participation from the athletes. From year one, the highlight of the event is usually the speech given to the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, first given to Jim Valvano, who was in the last stages of cancer; he gave his famous "Don't give up" speech that year, and ESPN honors his memory each year by maintaining the V Foundation for Cancer Research, holding a charity auction week every year leading up to the [=ESPYs=] where fans can bid on major fan experiences. Other prominent speeches from winners of that award (and the subsequently created Jimmy V Award for Perseverance) include Stuart Scott, Caitlyn Jenner, and Craig Sager.

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