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Sports fans now take for granted having almost unlimited, on-demand, and live streams of their favorite teams on their smart devices. However, the times when this was unimaginable are still within living memory. Here is a look at the history of sports broadcasting.

The First Broadcasts

The public was widely adopting the technology “broadcasts” of sporting events that took place in the 1890s when text descriptions of events first appeared via telegraph systems. An example was the 1896 Stanley Cup when Montreal’s Victoria Rink was connected to the telegraph network so that fans in Winnipeg could be kept up to date with events in the game.


The natural successor to telegraph broadcasting was radio. The first radio broadcasts began in the early 1920s, just as the public was widely adopting the technology. Radio remains a popular way to follow live sporting events when on to go. Today it’s possible because of dedicated sports radio stations like the UK’s TalkSport and the BBC Radio 5Live Sports Extra.


The first TV broadcasts of sporting events took place in the United States in 1939, when NFL, college basketball, and college football games all aired that year. It didn’t begin elsewhere until after 1945. However, it wouldn’t be until later in the 20th century that regular broadcasts would begin.

Dedicated Channels

The launch of dedicated sports channels revolutionized the broadcasting of sporting events. ESPN launched in the US in 1979, and Sky Sports began in the UK during the early 1990s. These channels allowed more airtime for sports broadcasting, providing more in-depth coverage of a broader spectrum of sports.

New Technologies

Dedicated channels helped to foster a detailed analysis of sporting events. Die-hard fans love to get as much information and predictions ahead of the game as possible, which is why pre-game build-up shows have become standard for most sports.

This build-up usually lasts for around an hour, although some bigger events may get more. An extreme example of this is the CBS coverage of the Super Bowl which will have 7 hours of content before the game starts. Meanwhile, Sky Sports F1 runs a full day of coverage on the days a race is a broadcast, providing around 3 hours of analysis and the airing of support races.

Technology has also allowed pundits to critique the play of footballers far more than was ever possible. Drawings and annotations of player and ball movements (such as these) help to more easily demonstrate how effective a particular pass, set piece or shot was, as well as outlining other options players had available to them.

The Future

As streaming platforms take over from TV channels, new features, such as an interactive selection of camera angles and additional statistics and commentary, are becoming available. More developments will likely take place in this area as it opens up direct access from sports leagues and teams to fans, cutting out the middle man of broadcast networks, providing opportunities to reach markets that had not previously been serviced.