The History of Sports Highlight Videos

Although sports highlights videos are everywhere today in sports media, the origin of the video genre is a little fuzzy. For starters, the first televised sporting event in the United States took place in May 1939, featuring a college baseball game between Columbia and Princeton. In the following decades, sports gradually became included in news programs, often in the form of a reporter giving a brief summary of the relevant games. As technology increased, so did the use of short clips of sporting events on television news programs; creating a type of sports highlight if you will.

However, the year that truly revolutionized sports in the United States was 1979, the year that ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) launched. Many skeptics thought the idea foolish; a news network dedicated to sports ‘round the clock? But this cable and satellite television juggernaut has been laughing at any early concerns for some time now. As of August 2013, roughly 98 million American households (85.58% of cable and satellite customers) receive ESPN. The channel features live sports broadcasts and a variety of sports talk shows, but the staple of ESPN, debuting with the network in 1979, is “Sportscenter”, the daily sports news program airing its 50,000th episode in 2012.

First Sportscenter Episode (unfortunately no actual highlights included)

ESPN in 1980 announcing that it will now be covering sports 24/7 (sweet old school highlight video included)

A more recent episode including the “Top 10 plays”

Sportscenter built its success on the sports highlight. The show can be described as an entertaining, neat, efficient, 30 minutes of delivering the biggest stories in sports, as well as the best plays in sports in the form of short highlight videos. There’s a reason it’s customary for so many people in this sports-obsessed nation to plop down for breakfast in the morning in front of Sportscenter, dutifully letting us know what we missed the previous day.

The history of amateur sports highlight making has a different story. The invention of Youtube, Vimeo, and other websites allowing anyone with a computer to post their video gave amateurs not only a platform, but an incentive to attempt to make their own sports montage. Most people post a video to the internet in the hopes that it will receive positive attention — and lots of it. It’s human nature to want to be praised, and that’s exactly the incentive Youtube and it’s sibling sites have created. ESPN has undoubtedly given some amateurs inspiration to make their own sports highlight, consisting of catchy music and jaw-dropping plays, just like how the big boys from Bristol do it (the headquarters of ESPN). As colleges have increased their recruiting tactics over the past decade or so, many coaches and players have taken advantage of highlight videos via Youtube as a means for scouting. The player can either make the highlight reel himself if he or she deems themselves savvy enough (like this soccer player here –, or hire one of the many professional services available on the internet (such as, specializing in making recruiting videos).