The evolution of sports broadcasting, from radio to streaming: a testament to human ingenuity


Humanity has a long way to go.

We still don’t have a cure for hiccups, or a collective strategy on climate change, or a way to cancel a gym membership without sending a notarized letter via carrier pigeon.

But, despite the myriad hurdles we still have to overcome, we should be encouraged by the monumental advancements in sports entertainment, especially the home fan experience.

Less than a century after American inventor Philo Farnsworth completed the prototype of the first television system, products like ESPN + give us the luxury of live streaming over 500 college football games from 16 different conferences, plus the ability to rewind and replay on up to three devices at a time, all for the monthly price of a few gallons gasoline, which we still use to fuel our flying cars.


But the true reach of ESPN + ‘s cutting edge technology can be best demonstrated with an evolutionary deep dive of sports broadcasting, going back 100 years (almost to the day) since the first sporting event aired on the radio. .

1921: the world’s first sports radio show

The first vocal broadcast of a sporting event was in April 1921, a 10-round, no-decision boxing match between Johnny Dundee and Johnny Ray at Motor Square Garden in Pittsburgh.

If only Dundee were here today to humiliate the Paul brothers.

ESPN + ‘s launch content included premium boxing and spread to other combat sports, including the UFC. In 2019, ESPN + became the exclusive U.S. carrier for all UFC pay-per-view events for residential customers.

1939: the world’s first sports television show

Mark Rucker / Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

May 17, 1939. A game between Columbia University and Princeton was broadcast on only 400 televisions nationwide capable of receiving the transmission.

The sports TV broadcast was so green that the camera moved from pitcher to batter in an unsuccessful attempt to follow the ball, making the viewer dizzy.

In 2020, the MLB doubled the number of high-frame rate 4K cameras with zoom available for video reviews to 24.

1951: FIrst VSoIor Sports TeIevsast

August 11, 1951. The first color television shows between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers delivered a schalumping over the Braves, 8-1.

PS Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for the word “schalumping”. It was used at the time by New York Daily reporter Dick Young, and now I will be using it exclusively for the future.

1965: The introduction of on-screen graphics

Prior to 1965, white letters on flip cards were “overlaid” on the game image, requiring both images to be displayed at half intensity, making it look grainy and oversaturated.

In 1965 the graphics were tangled on the in-game image and 10 years later relying on an electronic character generator the 1975 World Series debuted with yellow graphics which were updated. during the game.

For perspective, ESPN’s graphics team just turned Matthew Stafford into Marty McFly. Why? Because they can.

1994: The NFL is your oyster

The impetus for the NFL Sunday Ticket package, a subscription service covering all games that aren’t broadcast on local affiliates, dates back to 1994 when Sports Bar Operator of the Year Jon Taffer (yes, that Jon Taffer) was tasked with creating the model that would ultimately become the multi-billion dollar business.

BroBible sat down with the Bar rescue entrepreneur this summer and explained how he leveraged compression satellite technology and crafted a whole premise around several games, ads, merchandising, marketing and industry promotion.

“When we were doing that, the compression happened. Compression is a satellite signal compression technology that allowed you to receive 7 or 8 sets on a single transponder.

Before that, a sports bar had to have 8 of these huge analog dishes. You needed half an acre behind your bar to be able to do this.

1998: Birth of the “1er et 10” line

The all-important yellow foreground concept was devised by inventor David W. Crain in 1978, but the specified cameras, 3D mapping of the football field, and the complex projection system needed to achieve it just weren’t. achievable at the time.

ESPN made its debut in a Bengals game against the Ravens on September 27, 1998, and the job broadcasters had to do to educate viewers about what was going on is hilarious in retrospect.

2000: HD technology makes humpback televisions obsolete

The first major sporting event to air nationally in HD was Super Bowl XXXIV on January 30, 2000. During the 2014-15 season, every ABC Network show that produced new episodes was upgraded to high definition.

The St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. HDTV was absolutely necessary for home viewers to determine the outcome …

Standard definition has no place in a thumb game.

2000s: Boom Streaming Enables Fans to Watch Sports in the Washroom

While there is some ambiguity around who went first, one of the first live sporting events in the United States to be streamed was the Ohio State Spring Soccer Game in 2001. by WBNS-TV, which compressed the video and posted it on the station’s website.

The game was distributed to Windows mobile devices through the Windows Media Player format. Seems familiar?

2018 – The Future: ESPN +

Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

ESPN + sports offerings are so vast, I wouldn’t be surprised if they owned my high school football reel (9 career touchdown receptions, NBD).

From live streaming to highlights, originals, analysis, here’s a far from exhaustive rundown of what you can expect for just $ 7 a month.



  • NFL Primetime, new episodes air LIVE Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ET, with availability to watch through Wednesday
  • Man in the arena
  • The fantastic show
  • Premium Editorial
  • Stream the game live with a legalized sports betting (LSB) themed broadcast Between the lines, exclusively on ESPN +

College football

  • ESPN + has the most games AND the best teams in the country this season
  • Over 500 games from over 16 conferences
  • ESPN + to stream 25% more games than in 2019


  • For the first time since 2004, the National Hockey League (NHL) returns to The Walt Disney Company.
  • The 2021-2022 season will feature 103 exclusive regular season games on ESPN, ESPN +, Hulu and ABC.
  • Over 1,000 off-market games will be available on ESPN +


  • 30 for 30: Once upon a time in Queens – A four-part documentary about the 1986 Mets
  • Our time: UCF – UCF Football gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at all aspects of Malzahn’s debut season at UCF
  • Eli’s places – Eli Manning travels to some of the best-known and most historic college football establishments and meets sports giants to gain a better understanding of what makes college football a national sensation.
  • More than an athlete: Michael Strahan


Of course, we still have to queue way too long at the DMV and take our shoes off in the airport queue for some reason.

But the accessibility of sports, all, is within reach.

And for that, I can say that I am proud to be alive.


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