Bill Rasmussen is a serial entrepreneur and sports fan. He is the founder of ESPN—the 24-hour sports network. His innovations in advertising, sports and broadcasting are numerous and include the creation of Sports Center, wall-to-wall coverage of NCAA regular-season and “March Madness” college basketball, and coverage of the NFL Draft. He broke the advertising barrier to cable television by signing Anheuser-Busch to the largest cable TV advertising contract ever.
ESPN first broadcasted on September 7, 1979—nearly 31 years ago. Bill started ESPN with $9,000 borrowed on credit cards, seed money from family and parlayed it into a $146 million deal with Getty Oil.
ESPN’s unique advantage was it’s freedom to watch sports when the viewer wanted, not when the networks programmed them.
Bill’s biggest surprise? It had to do with Pete Rozelle, then commissioner of the NFL. Listen to the interview to find out what surprised him about Mr. Rozelle.
The three “tipping points” in ESPN’s history were: 1) the signing of the Budweiser advertising agreement 2) signing the NCAA agreement to cover games and 3) the 1980 March Madness viewership.
Listen to the entire interview below: