They're by no means old, but many of the documentaries that made up ESPN's critically acclaimed 2009-10 "30 for 30" franchise were good enough to be labeled as instant classics.
The point will be hammered home beginning June 17 as ESPN Classic will kick off "ESPN Films on Classic," a documentary showcase dedicating a whopping 50 hours each week to the "30 for 30" brand and other non-fiction movies in the network's extensive library. The films will run from 10 p.m. on Friday nights until midnight on Sunday.
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The "30 for 30" banner was created and executive produced by Bill Simmons, a hugely popular longtime columnist for ESPN.com, to promote the network during its 30th anniversary.
The series will expand in the fall when ESPN will begin airing an annual documentary film series under the same parameters as "30 for 30."
Here's the official ESPN release:
ESPN ANNOUNCES “ESPN FILMS ON CLASSIC”
ESPN Classic Expands to Showcase the Power of Sports Films
On the heels of the Peabody Award-winning 30 for 30 documentary series, ESPN Films is set to build on the critical acclaim and viewer interest by creating a consistent destination for sports documentaries on ESPN Classic. “ESPN Films on Classic” will feature an expanded focus on the channel’s unique ability to reach sports fans through films and is designed to target the fans whose interests are broader than news and analysis, and more focused on entertainment.
“One of the things that makes sports storytelling so captivating is that when a pivotal moment happens, it is almost instantly considered ‘classic’, said Keith Clinkscales, SVP, Content Development and Enterprises. “With 30 for 30, we were able to prove that classic sports stories resonate with a large and diverse audience so our intent with “ESPN Films on Classic” is to create a permanent destination for this genre. We feel this is a natural brand extension for ESPN Classic, which already features documentary and historical programming.”
The current programming plan for “ESPN Films on Classic” is to showcase films for 50 hours each weekend starting at 10 p.m. ET every Friday through midnight every Sunday. ESPN Films currently owns an extensive catalog of titles and additional documentaries are being produced annually. ESPN Films will also look to make tactical acquisitions of sports films to complement existing programming.
Additionally, ESPN Films is creating an annual documentary film series, to debut on ESPN in the Fall, following the same general parameters as 30 for 30. This will give the company an ongoing relationship with some of today’s most talented filmmakers, while at the same time, delivering inspirational sports stories that connect with both avid and casual fans.
“We feel that 30 for 30 represented an evolution in how we tell sports history at ESPN,” said Connor Schell, executive producer, ESPN Films. “We’ve learned that we can provide a window into American culture through detailed sports storytelling as it can serve as a very effective time capsule of people, places and events that often shape our lives.”
The upcoming programming schedule includes two featured films from the 30 for 30 series. As the weekend starts on June 17th, the first film will be Oscar-nominated director Brett Morgen’s June 17th 1994, a documentary that showcases a day like no other in the sports world. That will be followed by Game 5 of the1994 NBA Finals between the Rockets and the Knicks, which was taking place during the O.J. Simpson car chase and is featured prominently in the film. This weekend also marks the 25th anniversary of Len Bias’ death so the second featured film will be Kirk Fraser’s Without Bias. That film will be followed by one of Bias’ most notable games, the 1986 matchup between Maryland and UNC. Additional programming will include a mix of content produced by ESPN Films along with acquired content.
Schell continued: “Acquisitions will play a key role in our programming plan for “ESPN Films on Classic” as we know that some of the most creative storytelling in this genre comes from independent filmmakers and this new approach allows us to create an on-air film festival for our own documentaries as well as others in the field.”