As we head into June 23, aka the date of the Cynopsis Sports Business Summit and our eSports Conference, one element we are always proud to offer is our Hall of Fame. Honoring people who have taken an opportunity in sports and transformed it into something that changed pop culture, our class of 2016 this year is set to include International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, MLB’s groundbreaking Billy Bean as well as ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen.
Ahead of his induction on Thursday, Cynopsis Sports spoke with Rasmussen about the state of today’s media, his biggest crisis moment during ESPN’s early days, and his imprint on sports today.
Rasmussen on the state of sports media: Looking at it from a long horizon, when we started we thought there were a lot of fans who were thirsty for sports. Since we did that, first they said it would never work. Then, they said it might work for a little while but no one knew if fans would stay with us. As things began to evolve, and technology changed, people would ask how ESPN is going to compete. Well, the answer to that is that ESPN will do what they have always done, change with the technology. We always thought it would become this big and today everything is the same except for the technology. The following of fans remain the same. I look back over the broad range and think that ESPN is still serving the same information and the fans can’t get enough.
On ESPN’s biggest crisis moment at launch: We had transponder we used, but it was preemptible. Not a lot of people knew that. There were 23 overall with the military having 12, but the remaining 11 were all preemptible if necessary. That was pretty scary until we were able to get a second up. I remember one time, I was walking through Logan International Airport in Boston, and I heard my name paged. It turned out to that we had just been notified that they were going to preempt our transponder and that we would be off the air for an indeterminate about of time. That was when we were only two or three weeks old. We had made a big splash around the country for going around the clock and those type of things, and finally they called back and said that they had fixed it so we were only off the air for a very short time in the middle of the night. That was heart-stopping. We didn’t know if was going to be for an hour, a day or months.
On critics of ESPN: I think everybody should be tested. Some are potshots because of whatever their personal relationships are with the company. But I think that anybody who is a leader should always be questioned. If somebody has legitimate questions about why ESPN is doing this or that, I think they should ask that question. If it is troublesome for ESPN, then I think they have a problem. But they’ve handled it all pretty well over the years, there have been some incidents that come up that I think they would handle differently today, but that’s business.
Join us on Thursday for the 2016 Hall of Fame and get access to 19 sessions with multiple panels on marketing, technology, and more. Don’t miss out, get your tickets now and we’ll see you then.