|Traded as||ESPN Events|
Ohlmeyer Communications Corporation
|Headquarters||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States|
|Pete Derzis (general manager/senior vice president)|
|Parent||The Walt Disney Company (80%)
Hearst Corporation (20%)
ESPN Regional Television, Inc., currently operating under the name ESPN Events (and also known as ESPN Regional or ESPN Plus, and abbreviated as "ERT"), is an American sports programming syndicator that is owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and the Hearst Corporation (which owns the remaining 20%).
ESPN Regional Television is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, sharing its operations with sister network ESPNU. Prior to its purchase by ESPN, the company was known as Creative Sports, which in turn merged with Don Ohlmeyer's Ohlmeyer Communications Corporation Sports (OCC Sports). Through its division ESPN Events, the corporation also organizes sporting events for broadcast across the ESPN family of networks, including, most prominently, a group of college football bowl games.
Most of ESPN's syndicated broadcasts were previously presented under the on-air name ESPN Plus. However, the brand has since been phased out from its productions in favor of conference brands, such as SEC TV and the Big 12 Network. The unit produces sporting events for syndication on broadcast stations, regional sports networks; these telecasts are also available on the ESPN GamePlan and ESPN Full Court out-of-market sports packages, and since 2007, on ESPN3/WatchESPN.
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.
ESPN Regional Television was formed in 1996, through ESPN Inc.'s combination of Creative Sports and OCC Sports; the unit was originally under the direction of Chuck Gerber and Loren Matthews. On March 12, 1999, ESPN Regional Television was incorporated in New York.
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 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.
In August 2008, ESPN Regional Television secured a 15-year broadcast rights agreement with the Southeastern Conference, assuming the conference syndication rights from Raycom Sports. ERT syndicates games involving the conference's team under the "SEC Network" brand; through the deal, some SEC games also began airing on ESPNU beginning in 2009, as well as on ESPN and ESPN2 under the "SEC on ESPN" brand.
ESPN Regional Television produces and syndicates broadcasts from the following conferences:
ESPN Plus formerly held the rights to Conference USA football and basketball, Mountain West Conference football and basketball, and Big Ten Conference football and basketball, but has since lost them as detailed below:
Through ERT's ESPN Events division, the group also owns and organizes sporting events for broadcast across the ESPN family of networks. ESPN Events organizes the following college football bowl games:
ERT acquired its first bowl game in 2001, with its purchase of the Las Vagas 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 qualified to appear in a bowl game, but with no bowl available to take them. By 2013, ERT had founded two new bowl games and purchased four additional games.
Most of these games (with the exception of the Armed Forces, Birmingham and Texas Bowls) are usually held before Christmas, and until 2006 were branded under the banner title "Bowl Road Trip", while ESPN telecasts of bowl games held after Christmas were branded as "Capital One Bowl Week". As of the 2007 bowl season, however, "Bowl Week" now covers all non-college football playoff games shown on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.
ESPN Events organizes the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by The Walt Disney Company (the division's corporate parent), a regular season game between teams representing two conferences of historically black colleges and universities in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
ESPN Events also organizes college basketball events, such as the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, California; the Jimmy V Classic in New York City; the Champions Classic in Indianapolis; the Charleston Classic in South Carolina; the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Orlando Classic held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando; the Puerto Rico Tip-Off held in Bayamón, Puerto Rico; the Armed Forces Classic held at USCG Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and the SEARS BracketBusters games held in February each year. Most games in these tournaments are televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU; those not shown on television air on ESPN3.
In golf, ERT also produced the Champions Tour's Wendy's Champions Skins Game, which respectively aired on ABC and ESPN2. The company produced the Skins Game, which it owns via the purchase of OCC Sports. ERT also organizes the National Golf Challenge amateur tournament.
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.