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ESPN Classic Ending on January 1

Ben Bowman

It’s “game over” for ESPN Classic. Disney has been alerting its partners that it will shut down the channel on January 1.

The channel was originally launched as the Classic Sports Network in 1995, and was acquired by ESPN in 1997. The network originally focused on carrying classic sporting events, other programs and documentaries, and live specials (such as the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony) focusing on sports history.

The channel has been out of favor with Disney for several years. Starting in 2014, DirecTV and Dish Network started offering the channel as a VOD service. Altice and Comcast dropped ESPN Classic in 2017. Spectrum, Cox and DirecTV began cutting it in 2019. Atlantic Broadband tossed the channel in September.

Since 2005, ESPN Classic served as an “overflow” channel for the ESPN mothership, sharing reruns of ESPN-produced broadcasts as “instant classics.” In 2007, ESPN Classic stopped developing and airing original programming altogether.

With Disney’s renewed focus on ESPN+ as its destination for more sports programming, a move like this may have been inevitable. The streaming service has been bulking up its offerings in recent months. Users can get 75+ exclusive NHL games that won’t air on cable, and just about every out-of-market NHL game from every team. ESPN+ also every out-of-market MLS and select out-of-market MLB contests, and a host of collegiate athletics including from major conferences like the SEC. You’ll also get combat sports like boxing and UFC, as well as niche sports like cricket that have a large following overseas.

ESPN+ is also a good choice for fans of ESPN Classic, since it comes with a fine library of documentaries, including the entirety of its “30 for 30” series. Other documentary content includes “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s storytelling venture “E:60,” and “SC: Featured,” another take on the journalistic feature genre.