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Bill Rasmussen
Founder of ESPN
 




 

                                                                                                                                                                           

   

What inspired you to start ESPN? 

“Necessity!  I was fired from my job as Communications Director of the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association on Memorial Day weekend, May 27, 1978.  I had been scheduled to create a television program about the Whalers season for a local Connecticut television station; I called the station to cancel and they told me to come in anyway, just to chat.  It was during that weekend I came up with the idea for ESPN and discussed it with people for the first time.”

 

What was your initial goal for ESPN? 

“To be the biggest cable television network in terms of the number of subscribers.  We achieved that within one year of going on the air, and in September 1980 we had more people subscribing to ESPN's cable television service than any other cable television network (including HBO and CNN).”

 

What has surprised you most about where ESPN was and where it is now? 

“I always thought ESPN would be big in sports television.  The thing that has most surprised me has been ESPN’s expansion into other areas beyond television.  ESPN’s radio network is now the largest radio network in the country; ESPN the Magazine is now second only to Sports Illustrated in terms of sports publishing; ESPN even has restaurants.”

 

What was the biggest obstacle you faced during this process? 

“The biggest obstacle I faced during the process of starting ESPN was raising the money to do it, and then convincing the many individual cable television system operators in the country at that time, that subscribers would be interested in a single-topic – all sports – cable television network.  It may be hard for you to believe it now, but 31 years ago we had very few people outside our small company that took us seriously.”

 

What advice do you have for an aspiring sports broadcaster/entrepreneur? 

“I recommend that anyone who wants to get into sports broadcasting, or wants to start a business, take advantage of every opportunity to volunteer or participate in events at the very beginning.  Even Bob Costas had to start somewhere locally in his teens.  When I was a local sports anchor in the 1960s we had two young men who just used to hang around the station doing odd jobs and volunteering for projects around the station, and both of them became successful broadcasters.  By volunteering and hanging around you get to learn a great deal by osmosis, not to mention meeting people that you would never have met unless you were there, not just sitting on the sidelines!”

 

-Who were your heroes growing up? 

“World War II General Dwight Eisenhower (who later became President of the United States) and New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig.”