The Big Thing: ESPN Films
When we launched 30 for 30 in 2009 to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary, our No. 1 goal was to tell sports stories that didn’t just cover a player’s life or a game-winning shot, but had a second layer that touched on social issues or had a cultural ripple effect of some kind. Our measurement of success has always been whether or not we made our audience look at a topic with fresh eyes or learn something new — of course using sports as a focal point.
Our goal with O.J.: Made in America was no different, just on a much larger—and, as it turns out, much longer—scale. When [Senior Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Films and Original Content] Connor Schell and I first met with Ezra Edelman, the film’s director, we discussed the breadth of OJ’s story and that it might even turn out to be our very first four to five hour documentary. Fast forward two years to the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival where the 7-hour, 45-minute film screened (with one intermission).
The reviews and buzz from there were astounding; Ezra had made a film that put OJ’s story in the context of our country and Los Angeles’ history – it touched on race, celebrity, the media, domestic violence, the LAPD and made us all look at his story through a different lens. The dialogue that “O.J.: Made in America” started around these topics at such a pivotal time in our country’s history is something I’ll forever be proud of and we’re so grateful to Ezra for taking this story to places we never could have imagined.
Since Sundance in January, the film has screened at prominent film festivals including Hot Docs, Tribeca and IDFA in Amsterdam, and has been in theaters all over the country, including a re-release in New York and LA over the holidays. It aired on ABC/ESPN in June, and is now on Watch ESPN, iTunes, Hulu, Google Play and Amazon Instant Video.
We were recently shortlisted for the Oscars, a first for ESPN Films, and generally, the response to the documentary has been overwhelming. Most recently, OJ was listed on most “Best of 2016” lists; A.O. Scott, The New York Times film reviewer listed the film as the 2nd best film of the year second only to “Moonlight” – which we were just fine with! Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter had us at No. 1. Over the last couple of months, we have won numerous awards from critics and filmmaking groups, including Best Documentary at the Gotham Awards, four awards including Best Documentary at the Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards, Best Feature Documentary from the International Documentary Association, Best Documentary by the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle and a duPont Award.
The bar for 30 for 30 and our team at ESPN Films has been raised, and we’re more motivated than ever to tell stories that have the kind of reach and impact that “O.J.: Made in America” has had. We’re proud to work at a company that supports projects like this one that encourages conversation and understanding, and we’ll continue to use our platform to educate and entertain our fans. A huge thank you to our ESPN family for supporting us and being part of this ride.
Upcoming 30 for 30s in 2017:
Here’s a sneak preview of 30 for 30 “Nature Boy,” featuring Ric Flair, which will premiere next year on ESPN. The film is directed by Rory Karpf and will give an inside look into the life of the wrestling phenom.
Celtics - Lakers
Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who returns to ESPN as an NBA studio analyst Christmas Day, is interviewed for a new 30 for 30 film about the Lakers-Celtics rivalry set to debut in summer 2017. The film is produced by Jonathan Hock and directed by Jim Podhoretz. Here is an exclusive look at some early footage with Magic.
More Big Things:
SEC sets streaming records in 2016
SEC Network set multiple streaming records this year, including the all-time most-streamed event ever on SEC Network: opening weekend of college football, App State at Tennessee (Thursday, Sept. 1) with 493,000 unique viewers.
App State-Tennessee is heading to OT, live on @SECNetwork or here: https://t.co/zJEYGF7wm4 pic.twitter.com/eqwlYwM12e
— ESPN (@espn) September 2, 2016
ACC Network Extra
On July 21 ESPN President John Skipper announced with ACC Commissioner John Swofford, ESPN and the ACC’s intention to launch an ACC Network in 2019.
In August of 2016, ESPN rolled out ACC Digital Network, a streaming channel for ACC events available on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
And there it is. Full ACC Network coming in 2019. ACC Network Extra digital net launches next month. pic.twitter.com/I42qlMOTFo
— Keri Potts (@MsPotts_ESPN) July 21, 2016
Longhorn Network celebrates
Longhorn Network turned five on August 26 and to celebrate Texas lit up the UT Tower burnt orange with the number “5.” Since launch, the network has been a beacon for quality programming and storytelling and has the hardware to prove it. LHN has the most College Sports Media Awards of any network in the country.
Today, we celebrate our ESPN friends & colleagues deep in the heart of Texas. Happy 5th Anniversary @LonghornNetwork https://t.co/kwR2le9Iwy
— Gracie Blackburn (@Gracie_ESPN) August 26, 2016
20th Anniversary of Lee Corso's Head Gear
“On that day in Columbus 20 years ago, I could not have imagined that my end-of-show pick would have become a weekly staple on GameDay,” said Coach Corso. “I take pride each week in planning and prepping, and finding new ways to put that mascot head on.”
Men's + Women's College Basketball
President Obama's March Madness Brackets
ESPNU features all-deaf school football game
ESPN aired its first game featuring an all-deaf school during the GEICO ESPN High School Football Showcase. California School for the Deaf (Fremont, Calif.) faced Woodland Christian (Calif.) in a game that inspired thousands of people across the country.
The California School for the Deaf are about to showcase their unique talent on the football field
Tune to ESPN2 & get inspired #WCvsCADeaf pic.twitter.com/Yz3wwUY21p
— ESPNU (@ESPNU) October 27, 2016
ESPNU continues to be the home of college and high school events, televising many NCAA Championships this year, including women’s gymnastics, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer (College Cup), outdoor track and field, women’s lacrosse, softball, ice hockey, wrestling and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). In addition, top college recruits in basketball and football made their college announcement on our air—many during National Signing Day.