EDITOR’S NOTE: With this multi-week series — the Front Row Forward/Rewind, 2016/2015 — ESPN’s Communications Department takes the pulse of content executives throughout ESPN for their views on what’s ahead across ESPN for 2016 and some of what transpired in 2015. The snapshots provide a look at where ESPN has been, where it’s going and how it plans on getting there.
John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Films and Original Content
What was the best example of your division’s teamwork in 2015?
I think the best example of teamwork at ESPN Films this past year is the way we all pulled together for the Tribeca Film Festival in the spring. It was our most active year there with feature-length documentaries and short films (including “Angry Sky,” Every Day,” “Eternal Princess”) as well as panel discussions; it took a lot of coordination and effort from across our larger Exit 31 group to make it the success that it was.
What was the most “social” moment of 2015?
I would say our most “social” moment of the year was the extraordinary response to our 30 for 30 film “I Hate Christian Laettner” when it premiered in the post-Bracketology slot in March. The title of the film already had created a significant buzz, and then when the film debuted, the audience certainly responded in kind on a variety of social platforms.
It helped contribute to a combined viewership of the film of nearly 17 million from when we first premiered the film to when Duke won the national title three weeks later. Plus, Laettner himself was live tweeting throughout the broadcast premiere, helping to put the film fourth in Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings for the week – even beating out The Jinx.
— Christian Laettner (@laettnerbball) March 16, 2015
What excites you most about 2016?
I’m most excited about the breadth and depth of the film projects we’ll be premiering in 2016. From our first-ever ESPN Films episodic documentary, “OJ: Made in America,” to the diversity and ambition of our latest 30 for 30 films, “The ’85 Bears”, and “Fantastic Lies,” as well as the new election stories series we’re doing with FiveThirtyEight, we’ll have a lot of highly compelling and relevant content to engage audiences in the new year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Below are behind-the-scenes photos from ESPN Films’ representation at the 2016 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour on Tuesday in Pasadena, Calif.
Carrie Kreiswirth contributed to this post.