The Trademark

ESPN is an American Multinational cable sports channel owned by ESPN Inc, which is jointly owned by the Walt Disney Company and Hearst Communications. ESPN is primarily based in Bristol, Connecticut though the network also has offices in Arizona, Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle. ESPN is found in approximately 86 million television households in the united states alone. In addition to this, the network broadcasts in over 200 countries worldwide. ESPN’s employee count stands at around 6,500 employees worldwide. home page

The Domain

The domain was registered in October of 1994 and will expire in October of 2022 if it isn’t renewed before then. ESPN was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1985.

Continue reading: Does a trademark guarantee you the domain?

The History Of ESPN

Bill Rasmussen conceptualized ESPN in 1978 after being fired from his job with the World Hockey Association’s New England Whalers. One of the first steps Bill took was finding land to build the channels broadcasting facilities. First, the company was based out of Plainville, Connecticut.

However, the long-term plan to base the channel there was scuppered because of a local prohibition on buildings with rooftop satellite dishes. A more suitable alternative was found in Bristol, Connecticut (where the channel’s H.Q. remains today).

Significant first investments were provided by Getty Oil (which purchased 85% of the company in February of 1979) and Anheuser-Busch, who invested $1 million in exchange for their products exclusive advertisement on the network.

1.4 million cable subscribers in the USA tuned in to watch the ESPN launch on September 7th, 1979, which was taped in front of a small live audience inside the Bristol-based studio where the network would film thousands of hours of sports broadcasts over the years.

Next, the company acquired the rights to broadcast coverage of the early rounds of the NCAA men’s division basketball tournament. It first aired the NCAA tournament in March 1980, which began the modern-day television event dubbed “March Madness.”

The following April, the channel made another significant broadcast when it began televising the NFL draft. It provided complete coverage of the event, allowing rookie players from the college ranks to begin their professional careers on a never-before-seen national level.

In 1984 the American broadcasting company (ABC) acquired the channel for over $188 million. Under its previous ownership, the channel couldn’t compete for T.V. rights to major sporting events as its majority corporate parent prevented this, leading ESPN to lose out on several big deals with big names like the National Hockey League.

When the channel began initially, they represented an underdog against competitors like NBC and CBS, who dominated the market at the time.

NFL, NBA, and Baseball major leagues refused to consider cable as a means to broadcast their games. However, the backing of big-name ABC increased the credibility of the channel as a broadcaster.

In 1987 ESPN made a significant leap when it secured a contract with the NFL to broadcast eight games during the regular season that year. ESPN’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts would dominate for almost two decades before losing the rights to NBC in 2006.

In August 1995, Disney acquired ESPN (by acquiring ABC).

Under Disney’s pioneering, the network continued to grow in new ways, including (but not limited to) new acquisitions. For example, in early October 1997, ESPN acquired Classic Sports Network, a 24-hour, all-sports network that had taken form in the Midwest, since renamed ESPN Classic.

When a change of legislation opened up the rights to negotiate contracts for college football games, ESPN took full advantage and began broadcasting swathes of NCAA football games, creating an opportunity for fans to view multiple games each weekend (compared to just one).

In 2016 ESPN was given an award by the National Hispanic Media Coalition for “Outstanding commitment and outreach to the Latino community.”

Other ESPN Trademarks

Today ESPN, Inc is a giant global sports broadcasting and marketing behemoth representing a huge brand that has dominated the Sports Television market for over 30 years; it is a universally known brand and is synonymous with sports in general.

In December 2006, investment bank UBS announced at a New York conference that they had determined ESPN’s value to be in the region of $28 billion accounting for a whopping 40% percent of Disney’s $70.7 Billion market capitalization.

Some of this value comes from ESPN, Inc’s value as a brand, including a massive cache of intellectual property.

ESPN Radio

ESPN Radio is a popular American sports radio network, owned by ESPN, Inc. It was initially launched by ABC’s radio network in January 1992 under the name “Sports Radio ESPN” and is based out of its Bristol, Connecticut headquarters.

25 Radio stations had already signed on as affiliates the year before its official launch, with 200 being anticipated by launch.

The network launched on New Year’s day, 1992, initially broadcasting only on weekends. The network debut was run on 147 affiliates in 43 states.

By 1996 ESPN radio had expanded to weekdays.

ESPN Radio continues to enjoy popularity, with a 19% increase in listeners in 2019 reported.

The radio station was initially under the registered trademark” ESPN radio network” from 1992 to 2003 (with the trademark being canceled in 2003); however, ESPN, Inc submitted a trademark application for just “ESPN radio,” which was approved by the trademark office in March 2003.


ESPN+ is a subscription video streaming service available in the USA owned by Disney Media and Entertainment distribution in partnership with ESPN Inc, which is a joint venture between the Walt Disney Company and Hearst Communications.

It is one of Disney’s three flagship subscription streaming brands in the USA, standing with Disney+ and Hulu.

ESPN+ is marketed as an addition to the channel’s core linear networks, with some of ESPN+’s content previously offered exclusively to cable subscribers via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. However, ESPN+ does not include access to these services as they continue to only be offered by television providers. Thus some of the networks’ sports rights are not carried on ESPN+.

ESPN+ boasts at least 17 million subscribers.

ESPN, Inc applied to register the trademark in November of 1997 and officially became the trademark owner in January of 1999. ESPN+ runs via the main domain.

College Gameday

College Gameday (known officially as ESPN college gameday built by the home depot for sponsorship reasons) is a pre-game show broadcast as part of the network’s coverage of college football broadcast every Sunday during the college football season prior to the start of games with a midday kickoff (E.T.).

From 1987 to 2002, the show was filmed at ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut office; however, it has been shot on location with Ohio State, Alabama, and Florida hosting the gameday most often.

Since 2007 College Gameday has been shown on ESPN HD.

ESPN has owned the College Gameday trademark since its registration in 2019.

Wrapping up

In order to protect your business interests, you should consider appropriately registering your trademarks with the USPTO. Trademark filing is an often overlooked area of brand protection. If you trademark your intellectual property, you can secure and enforce your rights within the bounds of the law.

ESPN has hundreds of channels and corporate I.P. protected by proper trademark registration. To date, ESPN owns over 400 different trademarks.


Xavier Morales, Esq.

About the Author:

Xavier Morales, Esq.

Mr. Morales founded this trademark law practice in January 2007 with the goal of providing intellectual property expertise to entrepreneurs and businesses around the country. Since then, he has filed more than 6,000 trademarks with the USPTO. You can learn more about Xavier here.

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