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ESPN, which originally stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, was launched as an American cable TV network dedicated to sports ("sport" in Europe) 24 hours a day in 1979.

ESPN started as an alternative to the short sports segments in standard television news broadcasts and the information found in "Sports" sections of newspapers. ESPN started out fairly small and often had to broadcast unorthodox sports events, such as tractor pulls and the short-lived United States Football League (USFL), to attract viewers. In 1987, ESPN landed a contract to show National Football League games on Thursday evenings, an event which marked as a turning point in turning ESPN from a smaller cable TV network to a marketing empire and a cornerstone to the rabid "sports culture" it largely helped to create.

ESPN is owned by ABC (the American Broadcasting Company), which is a part of The Walt Disney Company.

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