inside the business of cable sports
What more can viewers
expect from cable sports television? ESPN Vice President of
Marketing Sean Bratches, a 1984 graduate of the College of Business,
visited RIT in late October 1998. Bearing ESPN logo-ed freebies,
such as T-shirts, caps and sweatshirts, Bratches, an 11-year
veteran of ESPN, explained the objectives and vision of his
industry to an audience of students, faculty and staff.
to constantly innovate," he said about the cable business. "We
at ESPN aim to give viewers the ultimate viewing experience."
Viewers must be pleased so far; data demonstrate that 70 percent
of people in the country catch ESPN at least once a month, Bratches
said. "Out of the 99 million households with a television, ESPN
is in 75 million." Propelled by its first full season of NFL
games and major league baseball's home-run-record chase, ESPN
finished with the top 12 most-viewed cable programs in 1998
and 20 of the top 25, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
The sports channel
got its start in 1970 as a regional sports network in Bristol,
Conn., beaming programming via satellite, Bratches explained.
The growth of national
cable services in the 1980s means that now ESPN is a multimedia
company, with its fingers in all sorts of communication pies.
Consider among their ventures pay-per-view channels; the ESPN
Zone, a dining/gaming/sports-viewing facility in Chicago; ESPN.com,
a busy Web site; sports music CDs; ESPN, the magazine; and don't
forget ESPN, the sports merchandise store. "We're positioning
ourselves as a world-class provider of sports information" Bratches
After the huge growth
of cable systems in the 1980s and into the '90s, the industry
is now being rebuilt, Bratches said. Revenue growth then was
based on creating a large base of viewers. Now that most television
homes have cable, growth will have to come from alternative
uses of cable in the home, like movies and other pay-per-view
services, and telephone and computer systems.
Another big change
facing the cable industry is the eventual conversion of the
system to high definition television (HDTV) technology. "Sports
and movie viewing will drive the HDTV market," he said.