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Original Issue


After almost nine months of round-the-clock sports programming, Enterprise Radio, the brainchild of the father-and-son team that started the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), ceased operations in late September. The network had hoped to become the ESPN of audio, though unlike its TV counterpart, Enterprise Radio started out by emphasizing sports talk and news updates over play-by-play coverage, which it had planned for later. Its centerpiece was an all-night national call-in talk show: Four different hosts escorted most of the network's 60 affiliates through some 13 hours of second-guessing and pontificating. It was an artistic success. The Sports Talk Show usually transcended the parochial drivel in which local phone-in shows often become bogged down, while attracting the sort of fanatical callers that give such shows their color. (A guy named Bob from Kenosha, Wis. was able to get through almost every night.)

And being on the air 24 hours a day gave the network the same immediacy as the wire services. It broke the news of the retirement of New England Tight End Russ Francis, of Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan's decision to intervene in the baseball strike negotiations and of the existence of a blacklist of tennis players who had competed in South Africa.

Enterprise Radio relied on its plexus of correspondents around the country for scoops like those, but most of the network's programming originated from Avon, Conn., where a 4½-meter-wide dish beamed the signal to a satellite.

Trouble was that the network sometimes strayed too far from that dish—for example, it moved its entire operation to Syracuse, N.Y. for a week in July to cover the National Sports Festival—and the high cost of such remote operations, along with an inability to crack major markets and solve some old-fashioned cash-flow problems, did the project in. In the end, the failure of founder Scott Rasmussen and his father, Bill, to find a corporate angel—like Getty Oil, whose capital helped get ESPN off the ground—doomed a noble effort.