Aspire Entertainment, Newsweek Partner to Develop Magazine Stories for TV, Movies (EXCLUSIVE)

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Aspire Entertainment has inked an exclusive two-year development deal with Newsweek to create and distribute films, TV series and other content on various platforms based on stories published in the magazine.

The deal makes sense. Aspire’s chief, producer Mark Ciardi, has frequently drawn on true stories for previous films such as “Million Dollar Arm,” with Jon Hamm, and “Miracle,” with Kurt Russell.

Ciardi’s stock in trade has been inspirational sports dramas. His former shingle, Mayhem Pictures, had been headquartered at Disney since 2002. Last year, he and longtime producing partner Gordon Gray parted ways, and Ciardi launched Aspire last fall with former YouTube executive Tom Duterme and William H.C. Chang and Ash Vasudevan of Edge Venture Capital. The goal is to draw on stories about characters dealing with and overcoming adversity.

Despite Ciardi’s background, the Newsweek partnership will not focus solely on sports. It will draw on the magazine’s coverage of everything from crime to international affairs, Ciardi told Variety.

“True stories are great whether they’re on a sports field or on the pages of a magazine,” said Ciardi. “It’s going to be reflective of the kind of stories the magazine does. Their writers are just fantastic.”

The deal came about after Aspire’s chief content officer and exec VP Teri Flynn joined the company in November from ABC Sports/ESPN and reached out to Newsweek editor-in-chief Jim Impoco about possible collaborations.

“I don’t know how old Jim is, but he’s one of those guys who is 25 years old in his mind,” said Flynn. “He’s on the cutting edge and he understands the value of this kind of partnership.”

Aspire will not be involved with the editorial content of Newsweek, the partners said. However, Flynn said that the company has already received messages from writers at the magazine about stories that might make good series, films or documentaries, and the magazine’s staff is enthusiastic about possible collaborations.

Aspire has already identified several projects they are interested in developing, one that might make for a potential feature film and another it hopes to turn into a TV series.

“This is a chance to do away with cookie-cutter TV newsmagazine formats and create a fresh approach to storytelling in a news context, one that works on several platforms,” said Impoco in a statement. “I am a huge fan of Mark’s work, and Teri and I already finish each others sentences. This is going to be extremely fun.”

Ciardi’s next feature film is“McFarland, USA,” starring Kevin Costner, which follows the true story of a cross-country coach in a small California town who transforms a team of Latino athletes into championship contenders. The Walt Disney Pictures release debuts on Feb. 20.

Newsweek was purchased from IAC by IBT Media, publisher of the International Business Times, in 2013, and was reconfigured as a print publication after briefly existing as a digital-only product. The deal with Aspire allows the company to draw on the magazine’s decades-old archive, dating back to several previous owners, including the Washington Post Company.

Flynn said that since relaunching the magazine has new verve and attitude, citing a recent cover story about various conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination.

“This is not your grandmother’s Newsweek,” said Flynn.

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