ESPN, which stands for the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, was the USA's first 24-hour sports network, and as a network dedicated solely to the sports fan, they have never interrupted a game for regularly scheduled programming, interrupted a playoff game for pre-race coverage of the Kentucky Derby, or carried multiple games at the same time while blacking out every out-of-market game being played at the time, regardless of whether or not it was one of the games they were carrying. They do, however, shamelessly shill for the superstar athletes, including breaking into coverage in order to show live look-ins at Barry Bonds's at-bats when he was chasing Hank Aaron's record, doing the same thing with Manny Ramirez's rehab appearances in the minors when coming back from a 50-game suspension for PED use, actively televising Roger Clemens's minor league rehab starts when he decided to un-retire midseason, and letting LeBron James spend an hour telling us which team he'll play for in the next year, something done by every other athlete and team via a one-page press release. They are often accused of being biased towards teams from certain regions--usually the Boston and New York teams, perhaps understandable due to their Connecticut home (a common nickname for ESPN is the Eastern Sports Promotion Network), but also the L.A. Dodgers, the L.A. Lakers, USC, the Cubs, the Heat, and whatever team Brett Favre decided to play for. But enough snark; we have Uncyclopedia for that.
ESPN and its many affiliated networks, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Plus (which syndicates sports events to local TV stations), ESPN America (a European network that shows US and Canadian sports), ESPN UK (which scored a slice of the domestic English Premiership after the demise of Setanta Sports-- Craig Ferguson's dream come true!), TSN (Canada's ESPN) and ESPN 3D, along with online affiliate
ESPN 360.com ESPN3.com, broadcast sports and sports news around the world. (Yes, even ESPN Classic has the occasional live broadcast, usually when there are so many games going on at once that there wouldn't be enough space otherwise--like the end of the college football season.) They currently hold the broadcast rights to Monday Night Football, one baseball game a week on Sunday nights (exclusive; they also simulcast other games that are also broadcast on the teams' regional sports networks), 4 NBA games a week (or was it six?), the World Series of Poker, and the majority of college sports including all but two college football bowl games. Also most of the early rounds of major tennis tournaments (and almost all of the Australian and French Opens, shared with Tennis Channel), the entirety of the World Baseball Classic, and, under the umbrella title ESPN on ABC, any sporting event broadcast on ABC, a sister company under the grand unifying banner of the Walt Disney Company--and yes, this includes the later rounds of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, the earlier rounds of which are broadcast on ESPN. ESPN2 used to broadcast even more obscure stuff in its early years, most notably Magic: The Gathering tournaments (yes, seriously), perhaps keying in on the "E" in ESPN, but in recent years has become more mainstream, which means obscure sports will have to find a new home, like the Ocho. (Incidentally, ESPN originally was conceived as a 24-hour version of ABC's Wide World of Sports. And then, so was ESPN2.)
ESPN's signature show is Sports Center, which has been running multiple episodes per night since the network launched in September of 1979. This means there are over 30,000 episodes of Sports Center, primarily of the hour-long variety, and more commonly longer than shorter. Specialized versions of SportsCenter for other major sports are common, most notably Baseball Tonight, NBA Fastbreak, College GameDay (football and basketball-flavored), and NFL Countdown (Sunday and Monday versions). Other shows include Mike and Mike In the Morning (Simulcast with ESPN Radio), ESPN First Take (formerly Cold Pizza), Jim Rome Is Burning, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, Sports Nation, Numbers Never Lie and Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable, which are eight different varieties of having people spouting off sports opinions in loud voices, which is probably the coolest job ever. (Add in ESPN Radio's lineup with The Herd, The Scott Van Pelt Show, the Doug Gottlieb Show, and Hill and Schlereth, and you've got twelve.) However, there are limits to how loud and abrasive you're allowed to be in opinionating, as evidenced by the failure of Quite Frankly with Steven A. Smith (Which also means Jim Rome must have mellowed out some from his days of provoking fights by equating football players to tennis players). Liberal political commentator Keith Olbermann got his start as a SportsCenter anchor. Former late-night talk show host Craig Kilborn is also an ESPN alum, as is Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts.
ESPN also has their own magazine, published every other week since 1998. It generally takes a more humorous approach than other sporting magazines, and even managed to snag Rick Reilly away from Sports Illustrated in order to facilitate this, although SI managed to exact some measure of revenge by grabbing longtime ESPN personality Dan Patrick. Still, judging by the state of the back page of SI since Reilly left, it seems ESPN got the better end of the deal. (Speaking of deals, when Monday Night Football moved from ABC to ESPN, Disney traded Al "Do You Believe In Miracles?" Michaels to NBC for the rights to an old Walt Disney character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, something he found amusing. Again, all true, and Oswald's return to the fold is being marked by a prominent part in Epic Mickey.)
In the early 00s, ESPN opened up an Original Entertainment wing, for original movies and tv shows. This led to the brilliant football themed series Playmakers, which sadly was canceled because the NFL was not too happy at how the series hit too close to home about issues involving the league. This in turn led to the network focusing instead on either tv movies ( A Season on the Brink (about Bobby Knight, who is now an ESPN analyst), The Junction Boys (about Paul "Bear" Bryant's first summer at Texas A&M), 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story (Self-explanatory),) as well as mini-serieses such as The Bronx is Burning (A miniseries about the Yankees' turbulent 1977 season), and Four Minutes (about Roger Bannister running the first 4-minute mile in 1954). Their "30 for 30" series, created by columnist Bill Simmons and featuring 30 short films on a variety of subjects, done by professional filmmakers, has been critically acclaimed.