ESPN’s award-winning prime-time newsmagazine E:60 kicks off its five-week fall run tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN featuring AFC Rushing Champion Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and “Silent Night Lights,” the story of a deaf high school football team that doesn’t just overcome, they overpower. Executive Producer Andy Tennant shares his thoughts on the tone and evolution of the show and his excitement for what lies ahead:
What are you most excited about as you head into tonight’s premiere?
It has been an exciting year for our team at E:60. From ESPN’s first-ever RFK Award for Journalism to the Television Academy Honors, to three Sports Emmys, 2015 has seen E:60 become the most decorated show in sports television. For me, personally, it has been gratifying to see our producers receive such recognition for all their outstanding work. And the best is yet to come. This season I think we have assembled our most varied and compelling story list ever. There are our trademark athlete profiles, important investigations and some terrific human interest features. We look at the entirety of the season and try to strike the right balance. It’s so important that the pieces represent different modes of storytelling and are different tonally, as well. We’re also doing some new things with our photography and editing that I think will maintain our standing as leaders in terms of our visuals.
You have exclusive profiles with several top NFL players lined up – how did you settle on these five players?
Aaron Rodgers, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Maria Sharapova, Steph Curry, Lionel Messi. When a star athlete wants to tell his or her story, they come to E:60. With that in mind, we recently launched a new campaign on social media entitled My Story, created by our production team. I’m excited about the tone this campaign has set for our upcoming flight of shows. In the fall, NFL player profiles are a staple of E:60 and the goal is always to get the biggest names but also the best stories. This season I think we’ve broken new ground, with profiles of J.J. Watt, Le’Veon Bell, Julian Edelman, Randall Cobb and Connor Barwin. They’re all well known to the American sports fan but none has been profiled in-depth the way we’re doing it. And they’re not just stars, but stars with stories to tell, and not just the typical stories of obstacles overcome, but stories that will surprise you. These guys run the gamut—from Watt, who has dedicated himself to football and little else, at least for now, to Barwin, who is a leader in the football community on social issues such as the environment and gay rights. Edelman, as viewers will see, happens to be a really funny guy.
What is the one thing you hope viewers take away from the shows this fall?
As always, our goal is to entertain, to inform, to take fans places they’ve never been before, to find new ways to tell great stories—and the first rule is to never be boring. If you look at the way the show has evolved since we debuted in 2007, I think we have been true to those principles. Our commitment to important journalism has only strengthened, too, and that will be evident this fall. I think these stories will make as big an impact as the work we have done in the last few years, particularly on FIFA and soccer-related issues. We will make viewers think, laugh, cry – but even more.