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ESPN in film festival game

Cable network, Tribeca team for sports festival

The Tribeca Film Festival and ESPN are pacting to launch a fest-within-a-fest centering on sports.

The Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival will group all the sports pics that would normally be shown at Tribeca into a program that will run concurrently with the spring festival. Sports films will be defined broadly to include titles such as crossword docu “Wordplay,” according to Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal.

Fest organizers note 29 sports pics have screened at Tribeca in its five years, including movies such as English boxing docu “Blue Blood” and soccer pic “Goal! The Dream Begins.”

“This is a way of looking at the categories we have — documentaries and shorts and all the others — and subdividing them more,” Rosenthal said. “We want to make it easy for festgoers to say, ‘This is the film that we’re interested in.’ ”

Tribeca programmers will choose the sports films just as they do all other selections, fest organizers said, though ESPN will be “involved, to a degree, on the selection process,” according to Geoff Reiss, senior veep for ESPN Original Entertainment.

Cabler will promote the pics and also could incorporate them into editorial coverage on its many programs such as “SportsCenter” and “Outside the Lines.” As-yet-unidentified pro teams may also be brought on for marketing campaigns.

ESPN said it views the fest as a way to invest in sports films, which it already does in a different manner with production on telepics as well as theatrical titles like “Once in a Lifetime” with corporate sibling Miramax.

Organizers will design a special day of programming around sports films and sports-related events and create a Web site about sports pics.