Sometimes Being First Does Pay Off
Recently, I had the opportunity to join the rest of the Inc 500/5000 honorees for an interview with Bill Rasmussen, CEO and Founder of ESPN networks. Now, if you’re like me, it’s hard to remember a time before ESPN existed. Listening to Bill speak really reminded me that the network (and magazine, website, etc.) I take for granted started with an idea, family support, little buy in, and a lot of heart!
Bill’s idea came from his observation that television was so primitive back then – you were told what to watch and when to watch it. But, this did not work for Bill. Bill knew that people never got enough of sports.
ESPN was started with four people. However, after the first meeting with the networks went bad, one felt it would never work and dropped out, leaving three of them to do it all.
- The number one obstacle the team heard, time and time again, was one each of us has heard at some point in our lives. “That will never work. Why would you want to do that?” By far, the biggest thing they had to overcome was the cable companies not believing in 24HR sports broadcasting.
- The original funding was a $9,000 cash advance from his credit card. Then he turned to family and friends.
- Paid themselves $1,000 a month in the beginning
- The diving factor was technology (satellite)
- First big break was the NCAA basketball tournament
- For early sales, they did not have a rate card. They just made up pricing when they met with advertisers
- The first advertiser was Budweiser
- Before ESPN became a household name, their sales pitch was, “So I know you heard about the new 24 Hour sports broadcast, when do you want to set a meeting?”
If you have something you just know will be big, and have the guts to take it to market: go. Don’t stop. You don’t need to convince everyone, but you do need to preserve.