NEW YORK — ESPN has planned a series of specials covering 30 hours of primetime programming from May 31-Sept. 7, 2004, scheduled to draw attention to the 25th anniversary of ESPN.
Under the logo ESPN25, the network will kick off the initiative May 31 next year with “The Moments,” short pieces that will serve as a day-by-day countdown of the 100 most noteworthy moments in sports from 1979 to 2004.
The longform programming begins June 8 with “Then & Now,” a two-hour show exploring the changes in the sports biz over the 25 year period.
Two hourlong weekly series will take over ESPN’s Tuesday-night schedule for 13 weeks from June to September: “The Headlines,” examining the 25 most significant sports-related stories of the quarter century; and “Who’s #1,” which will explore the top 25 in a different category each episode, from top 25 games and teams to sports movies and controversies.
The trends include expansion of the number of pro-sports franchises, the move to free agency by players, the explosion in volume of sports programming on cable and broadcast television and the mind-boggling increase in NFL license fees (from $8.8 million a year in 1977 to $2.25 billion per year in the current contract).
A two-hour “Silver Anniversary Special” will conclude the series Sept. 7, focusing on the growth of ESPN during the period.
Taking on the bulk of the hosting chores for the specials are Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Dan Patrick and Stuart Scott. ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Radio and ESPN.com will all participate editorially in the network’s 25th anniversary celebration.
ESPN will control the cost of the programming by doing most of it inhouse. The two most active outside suppliers are Red Line Films and Broadway Video.