New York -- ESPN will celebrate 100 years in sports with 60
hours of programming under the umbrella title "SportsCentury," the network
announced last week.
The network will break the 60 hours into four categories,
including a weekly countdown of the 50 Greatest North American Athletes and six SportsCenter
of the Decade specials.
In addition, ESPN last fall began running a package of
daily Classic Moments vignettes; there will be 1,200 of those by year's end.
Those briefs, also running on ESPN Radio, will appear on its Web site, too, along with
related consumer polls.
Moreover, sister broadcast network ABC will run four
quarterly themed specials, including The Most Influential People of the Century,
with repeats due on ESPN.
The extensive project will have many participating
advertisers, but General Motors Corp. will be the sole presenting sponsor, said ESPN
president George Bodenheimer, describing SportsCentury as "turning 100 years of
sports memories into one year of memorable programming."
Ancillary elements will include a commemorative issue of ESPN-The
Magazine in late 1999; quarterly newspaper supplements in 10 key markets; a tie-in
"coffee-table book," due in October, that'll profile the 100 greatest
athletes; and a 30-city mall tour, running through August.
The weekly countdown, hosted by SportsCenter's
Dan Patrick, will start Jan. 22 at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN with No. 50, tennis superstar Chris
Evert, and it will climax Dec. 26 on ABC with the top two (as yet unannounced). The
choices came from a panel of 48 journalists and others.
ESPN2 will carry repeats of 50 Greatest North American
Athletes, SportsCenter of the Decade and Classic Moments.
Mark Shapiro, coordinating producer on SportsCentury, said
this will be more than a retrospective, since it will include historical and social