Bill Rasmussen is known as “The George Washington of ESPN.” Fueled by entrepreneurial spirit and a lifelong love of sports, Rasmussen developed the idea of producing sports events for cable television in May 1978, just after he lost his Communications Director position with the New England Whalers.
Months later, Rasmussen and his son, Scott, expanded his idea and decided to create a 24-hour television network.
In his mission, Rasmussen met with nearly every major sports entity, all major cable operators and many potential financial backers. Many were skeptical, but Rasmussen was not discouraged.
He eventually landed an NCAA contract, which added credibility, and convinced a few major cable operators to embrace his concept. Eventually, Anheuser-Busch became cable TV’s first million-dollar advertiser and Getty Oil agreed to finance the venture.
ESPN was launched on September 7, 1979. According to ESPNFounder.com, the network currently maintains a global presence in more than 200 countries and more than 100 million television households in the United States.
Known as a serial entrepreneur, Rasmussen talks to corporations and universities worldwide about entrepreneurship, innovation and business development. A frequent guest on radio, television and the internet, Rasmussen is also the author of the best-selling book, Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN.
In a 2012 interview with Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel, Rasmussen discusses his original idea for ESPN, his entrepreneurship experiences and risks he has taken.
ESPN Sports Center, Then and Now, October 2006. (Photo courtesy of ESPNFounder.com)
Bill Rasmussen on the cover of Connecticut Magazine, September 1979. (Photo courtesy of ESPNFounder.com)