Ohlmeyer Communications Corporation
ESPN Regional Television
|Headquarters||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States|
|Pete Derzis (general manager/senior vice president)|
The Walt Disney Company (80%)|
Hearst Communications (20%)
ESPN Events is an American sporting event planning division that is owned by ESPN Inc. ESPN Inc. is a joint venture between the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and the Hearst Communications (which owns the remaining 20%). ESPN Events is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and shares its operations with SEC Network and formerly with ESPNU. The corporation organizes sporting events for broadcast across the ESPN family of networks, including, most prominently, a group of college football bowl games and in-season college basketball tournaments.
ESPN Events previously operated primarily as a syndicator of college sports broadcasts; the company was founded as Creative Sports, a sports programming syndicator that merged with Don Ohlmeyer's OCC Sports in 1996. After ESPN purchased the merged company, the division was renamed ESPN Regional Television (ERT), which distributed telecasts for syndication on broadcast stations and regional sports networks; these telecasts were also available on the ESPN GamePlan and ESPN Full Court out-of-market sports packages. Most of ERT's broadcasts were presented under the on-air branding ESPN Plus, but this name was later phased out in favor of dedicated titles for each package, such as SEC TV and the Big 12 Network. Due to the proliferation of competing outlets (including other sports channels, conference-specific networks, as well as digital services such as ESPN's own ESPN3 and WatchESPN platforms) that took over most of the conference rights and overflow formerly held by ESPN Regional Television, the network largely exited the syndication business by 2015.
Following its acquisition of the Las Vegas Bowl in 2001, ERT began to double as an organizer of sporting events. The subdivision, which later began to operate under the name ESPN Events, would acquire and establish other bowl games to provide additional post-season opportunities for bowl-eligible teams (and in turn, additional content for ESPN's networks). ESPN Events also organizes several pre-season tournaments in college basketball, as well as the season-opening Camping World Kickoff and Texas Kickoff football games.
The company traces its history to Creative Sports, Inc., a North Carolina-based sports syndicator owned and founded by Bray Cary. ESPN Inc. purchased Creative Sports, Inc. and OCC Sports, Inc. in the mid-1990s.
On July 22, 1994, ESPN Regional Television was incorporated in Delaware. ESPN Regional Television was formed in 1996, through ESPN Inc.'s combination of Creative Sports and OCC Sports, under the direction of Chuck Gerber and Loren Matthews. In January 2000, Loren Matthews left ESPN Regional Television for an executive position at sister division ABC Sports. By February 2000, ERT acquired the production rights to the Arena Football League; this included responsibilities for AFL broadcasts on The Nashville Network, which had ESPN retain duties for the events in lieu of its own unit, World Sports Enterprises.
In 2001, ESPN Regional Television moved beyond broadcasting college football bowl games, when it purchased the Las Vegas Bowl from Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. ESPN Regional did so to help partner conferences that had bowl qualified teams but no bowl available. The company bought four more bowls and started two others.
In August 2008, ESPN reached a 15-year, $2.25 billion broadcast rights agreement with the SEC. As part of the deal, ESPN also assumed the syndicated package of games previously held by Raycom Sports; beginning in 2009, ERT syndicated SEC football and basketball under the SEC Network brand.
The original business of ESPN Regional Television began to grow obsolete with the launch of dedicated networks dedicated to specific conferences, including the Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network, and the ESPN-operated SEC Network, since they largely assumed rights to the game packages that ESPN had previously syndicated. As such, the division pivoted to focusing solely on organizing events, particularly within college football and basketball.
ESPN Plus used to hold the rights to Conference USA football and basketball, Mountain West Conference football and basketball, and Big Ten Conference football and basketball, but has lost them as detailed below:
- American Athletic Conference men's college basketball (starting with the 2008 football season, under the old Big East contract; games were branded as Big East Network, later the American Athletic Network, with SportsNet New York as the flagship station)
- Big 12 Conference basketball (telecasts from the conference became branded under the Big 12 Network name beginning in the 2008–09 season) All Big 12 basketball games moved to ESPN linear channels after the 2013-2014 season.
- Conference USA – Broadcast rights were for regular-season football games (the C-USA Championship rights are held by CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports, which also holds rights to conference basketball games in conjunction with CBS). The American Sports Network, a competing college sports programming syndicator, began to syndicate other C-USA games with the 2014 season.
- Mid-American Conference basketball – Broadcast rights were assumed by SportsTime Ohio in 2010; Sportstime Ohio lost the rights to American Sports Network in 2015.
- Mountain West Conference – Broadcast rights to MW football and basketball games are now held by CBS Sports Network and NBCSN (conference rights were previously held by the now-defunct MountainWest Sports Network).
- Big Ten Conference – Broadcast rights to Big Ten Conference football and basketball games not selected to air regionally or nationally on CBS or an ESPN network are currently held by the Big Ten Network. ESPN Plus lost the Big Ten rights to the network when it launched in August 2007.
- Southeastern Conference (SEC) – Broadcast rights to SEC football and basketball games not selected to air regionally or nationally on CBS or an ESPN network were assumed by the SEC Network starting with the 2014 football season and the 2014-15 basketball season, as part of a new 20-year contract between the SEC and ESPN. The conference rights were previously held by Raycom Sports, and before that Lincoln Financial Sports (formerly Jefferson Pilot Sports from 1987 to 2009), before becoming produced by ESPN Plus (under the syndicated SEC Network brand, rebranded as SEC TV in 2013).
- Sun Belt Conference football and men’s basketball (telecasts from the conference are branded under the Sun Belt Network name). The Sun Belt Network ceased operations in 2014.
- Western Athletic Conference - ESPN Plus broadcast WAC men’s and women’s basketball until 2014, when American Sports Network won those syndication rights, beginning with the 2014-15 season.
- Cara Capuano – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2009–2012)
- Paul Carcaterra – Big East Conference sideline reporter (2012)
- Doug Chapman – Mid-America Conference color commentator (2009–2012; alternating from 2010 onward)
- John Congemi – Big East Conference color commentator (2009–2011)
- David Diaz-Infante – Big East Conference color commentator (2012)
- Doug Graber – Mid-America Conference color commentator (2010–2012; alternating)
- Mike Gleason – Big East Conference play-by-play (2009–2011)
- Quint Kessenich – Big East Conference sideline reporter (2009)
- Eamon McAnaney – Big East Conference sideline reporter (2010–2011), play-by-play (2012)
- Dave Neal – Southeastern Conference play-by-play (2009–2012)
- Michael Reghi – Mid-America Conference play-by-play (2009–2012)
- Andre Ware – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2009–2012)
- Dave Armstrong – Big 12 Conference play-by-play (2010–2013)
- Dave Baker – Southeastern Conference play-by-play (2012–2013)
- Carter Blackburn – Southeastern Conference play-by-play (2010–2012)
- Barry Booker – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
- Joe Dean Jr. – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2010–2013)
- Reid Gettys – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Mark Gottfried – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2010–2011)
- Mike Gleason – Big East Conference play-by-play (2010–2012)
- Mitch Holthus – Big 12 Conference play-by-play (2010–2013)
- Stephen Howard – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Kara Lawson – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2011–2013)
- Dave Lamont – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2012–2013)
- Kyle Macy – Southeastern Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
- Bryndon Manzer – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Clay Matvick – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Dave Neal – Southeastern Conference color commentator (2012–2013)
- Chris Piper – Big 12 Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
- Brad Sham – Big 12 Conference play-by-play (2010–2013)
- Anish Shroff – Big East Conference play-by-play (2012–2013)
- Jon Sundvold – Big 12 Conference color commentator (2010–2012)
- Bob Wenzel – Big East Conference color commentator (2010–2013)
- Rich Zvosec – Big 12 Conference sideline reporter (2012–2013)
ERT acquired its first bowl game in 2001, with its purchase of the Las Vegas Bowl from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The company moved into the area as it saw that some of their conference partners had teams that were bowl-eligible, but with no bowl available to take them. By 2013, ERT had founded two new bowl games and purchased four additional games. The games primarily serve as a source of live content for ESPN during the early weeks of bowl season, prior to the larger, traditional games in proximity to New Year's Day (such as the College Football Playoff "New Year's Six", which are also broadcast by ESPN). This strategy has been successful for ESPN, although it has in recent years contributed to an oversaturation of bowl games that have prevented them from all being populated by bowl-eligible teams. ESPN also runs a Division I FCS bowl game, the Celebration Bowl, which is played between the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — the two prominent conferences of historically black colleges and universities.
ESPN Events operates the following bowls, which ESPN televises:
- Armed Forces Bowl
- Birmingham Bowl
- Bahamas Bowl
- Boca Raton Bowl
- Camellia Bowl
- Celebration Bowl
- Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
- Frisco Bowl
- Gasparilla Bowl
- Hawaiʻi Bowl
- Heart of Dallas Bowl
- Las Vegas Bowl
- New Mexico Bowl
- Texas Bowl
ESPN Events is also involved in college basketball, operating early-season events such as the AdvoCare Invitational, the Champions Classic, the Jimmy V Classic, the NIT Season Tip-Off, and the Phil Knight Invitational.
College marketing division
The company's success with college tournament operation and broadcasting led ESPN Regional Television to form a college marketing division, which provides colleges all-in-one services for selling sponsorships, local media rights and other marketing campaigns. The University of South Florida, the University of Kansas and the University of Oregon are some of the clients that the division began representing in 2000.
- Brent Schrotenboer (December 11, 2012). "The Windfall Bowl: Pay for bowl directors keeps rising". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- Erik Spanberg (February 21, 2000). "ESPN's secret weapon". Charlotte Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
- "ESPN REGIONAL TELEVISION, INC. (search on- name or File Number: 2419934)". Delaware State Division of Corporations - Filing. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Alicia Jessop (January 5, 2013). "ESPN's Path to Becoming a Bowl Game Owner and Redefining Bowl Game Operations". Forbes. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
- Jon Solomon (August 25, 2008). "ESPN, SEC reach 15-year, $2.25 billion pact". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- "SEC Network timeline: The conference's journey to its own television channel". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. April 15, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- "ESPN literally owns much of college football's postseason". SBNation.com. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- "Big 12 Men's Basketball Television Frequently Asked Questions". Big 12 Conference.
- “Big 12 Network syndication coverage concludes after tournament semifinals”. Clones Confidential (Fan site of the Iowa State Cyclones), March 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- “Big 12 Network to Tune Out After Conference Tournament”. Kansas City Star (March 12, 2014).
- “Sinclair’s American Sports Network to Air MAC Football, Basketball Games”. Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
- "About the SEC Network". SEC Network.
- WAC Announces American Sports Network Broadcast Schedule for 2015-16
- "Forde-Yard Dash: Bowl edition". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
- "LSU To Play Basketball At Disney World, November 2018". LSU Athletics. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
Raycom Sports (before merger of the Big 8 and SWC)
| Syndication Rights Holder to the Big 12 Conference
(under Big 12 Network branding, 2008-2014)
| Syndication Rights Holder to the Big Ten Conference
Big Ten Network (cable-exclusive)
Raycom Sports (before the merger of the Metro and Great Midwest Conferences)
| Syndication Rights Holder to the Conference USA
American Sports Network
| Syndication Rights Holder to the Southeastern Conference
2009-2014 (under SEC TV branding)