ABC SportsThe Rise and Fall of Network Sports Television

ABC SportsThe Rise and Fall of Network Sports Television

Travis Vogan

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780520292956

Publisher: University of California Press


The American Broadcasting Company division ABC Sports is behind some of network sports television’s most significant practices, personalities, and moments. It created the weekend anthology Wide World of Sports, transformed professional football into a prime-time spectacle with Monday Night Football, and fashioned the Olympics into a mega media event. ABC Sports helped to turn Muhammad Ali, the sportscaster Howard Cosell, and the daredevil Evel Knievel into stars and captured now-iconic instances that include Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fist protest at the 1968 Olympics, the terrorist attacks at the 1972 Munich Games, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’s 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, the U.S. hockey team’s 1980 “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviet Union, and the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. Beyond sport, it revolutionized television news and altered the medium’s racial and gender politics. This book offers a cultural and institutional history of ABC Sports from its beginnings to its 2006 rebranding as “ESPN on ABC.” It uses the storied division to examine network sports television’s development in the United States; the aesthetic, cultural, political, and industrial practices that mark it; and the changes it endured, along with the new sports media environment it spawned.