ESPN Forms Unit to Create Sports Movies

ESPN Films to Work with Sister Company Walt Disney Studios

ESPN is establishing a movie unit, ESPN Films, to develop and produce scripted and documentary programming for both television and theatrical release.

Black Magic

The first major initiative produced by the unit will be 30/30, which will look back at the past three decades in sports, timed to the 30th anniversary of ESPN next year. For 30/30, ESPN Films will have 30 filmmakers and celebrities tell one-hour sports-themed stories. The original films will air Tuesdays beginning in late 2009 and running through 2010.

For feature films, ESPN will work with sister company Walt Disney Studios to develop, produce and distribute sports-themed titles -- an area where Disney has experience.

“Every sports event is storytelling in real time,” said Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, in a statement. “There’s drama in every encounter, as millions witnessed so vividly during this year’s Super Bowl. So it’s no surprise that sports lend themselves especially well to the stories we tell on the screen in such hit films as The Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans and The Rookie. I’m thrilled that sports-themed films will now have their own label at Disney and ESPN. We believe this represents a big score for sports fans and moviegoers alike.”

ESPN tapped talent agency CAA to represent and guide the new film unit as it expands its production and explores commercial opportunities that can go along with the initiative.

“Collaborating with CAA for this aspect of ESPN Films’ rollout demonstrates our commitment to being the leader in identifying, developing and producing the highest-quality sports-themed stories out there,” said Keith Clinkscales, ESPN senior vice president, content development and enterprises, in a statement.

This year, ESPN will air 10 documentaries on its networks under the ESPN Films banner, beginning with Black Magic, which will air this month, as well as The Zen of Bobby V, a film on former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, current manager of Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines.