You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ESPN Films, FiveThirtyEight to Launch 2 Short Documentary Series (Exclusive)

ESPN Films and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight stats-based journalism blog this fall will roll out a pair of documentary-short series keying off the analytical approach cultivated by FiveThirtyEight, as the sports cabler looks to expand digital-first properties.

In the “Signals” docuseries, filmmakers will use data analytics to explore stories across political, economic, science, lifestyle and sports domains. Related features and visualizations will accompany the films at FiveThirtyEight.com. The first “Signals” installment is “The Man vs. The Machine,” which will premiere Tuesday at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival and is skedded to launch on FiveThirtyEight Oct. 22.

The 17-minute “Man vs. Machine” is directed by Frank Marshall (“Alive,” “Eight Below”). Short looks at the historic chess match between world champion Gary Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue computer, a story Silver discussed in his best-selling book “The Signal and the Noise.” ESPN said new films in the “Signals” series will debut approximately every six weeks.

The second series, “The Collectors,” tells the stories of professional statisticians — like the official scorer at a baseball game, a U.S. Census taker or meteorologist. FiveThirtyEight staff will aggregate and analyze data relating to the topics of the shorts for companion web posts. First of the 10 “Collectors” films will debut Dec. 10, with subsequent episodes every three to four weeks. All of the films in docuseries will be produced by Steven Cantor, founder of Stick Figure Studios (acquired last year by Ora TV, the digital network owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim).

“These are exactly the kinds of projects I envisioned from the outset when I decided to bring FiveThirtyEight to ESPN,” Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, said in a statement. “Working with ESPN Films will help to expand our journalism in ways that prove a sound knowledge of data and statistics can make stories more compelling as well as more accurate.”

ESPN bought FiveThirtyEight from the New York Times Co. last year, and Silver and his team relaunched the website this year. In March, the sports cabler created a unit, Exit 31, grouping FiveThirtyEight, ESPN Films and sports and pop-culture website Grantland under one umbrella. Silver famously correctly predicted the Electoral College votes during the 2008 U.S. presidential election for 49 of 50 states, along with all 35 U.S. Senate races.

Specific topics and directors for “Signals” and “The Collectors” are yet to be announced. FiveThirtyEight writers will appear as subject-matter experts in the films where appropriate.

ESPN is using the Toronto Film Festival as a venue to launch the series because “we aspire to work with some of the best directors in the business,” said Connor Schell, VP and executive producer, ESPN Films and original content.

The docuseries will be free on FiveThirtyEight.com; ESPN hasn’t announced sponsors for the programs yet. The films could be distributed on TV, WatchESPN or other outlets, Schell said.

“We are platform-agnostic … but obviously we have a primary distribution channel through FiveThirtyEight,” he said. “These films are made specifically in evergreen ways, to be consumed in any way, and that distribution strategy may evolve over time.”

The FiveThirtyEight docuseries follow the model of “30 for 30 Shorts,” a collaboration between ESPN Films and Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com based on the flagship “30 for 30” series that airs on TV. This year, “30 for 30 Shorts” won a Creative Arts Emmy in the short-format nonfiction program category.

More Digital

  • Lauren Dolgen Exits as BuzzFeed Studios

    Lauren Dolgen Exits as BuzzFeed Studios Boss After a Year

    Veteran TV producer Lauren Dolgen has departed as head of BuzzFeed Studios after one year in the job. BuzzFeed had hired Dolgen, a longtime MTV producer who worked on shows including “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant,” as head of BuzzFeed Studios to oversee the company’s slate of original content. Based in L.A., she had [...]

  • Snap-Derek-Andersen-Lara-Sweet

    Snap Fills Out Senior Ranks With CFO, HR Chief Appointments

    Snap CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel has turned in house to fill the company’s CFO and head of human resources positions, completing an overhaul of the Snapchat parent’s executive ranks after a series of high-level departures. The company announced the appointment of Derek Andersen, currently Snap’s VP of finance, as chief financial officer. Andersen will [...]

  • Oculus Quest Gets Netflix App, But

    Oculus Quest Will Have Netflix, but Not Plex or HBO

    Facebook’s new Oculus Quest headset is launching with a number of high-profile gaming titles this Tuesday. Media apps on the other hand will take a bit of backseat, with some key players sitting this latest headset out for the time being. First, the good news for anyone who has pre-ordered the headset: One of the [...]

  • Lester Holt

    Chris Berend Tapped to Oversee NBC News' Digital Efforts

    Chris Berend, an executive who has been overseeing digital video for CNN and helped launch Great Big Story, a streaming-video site aimed at younger audiences, will jump to NBC News to lead its digital efforts. Berend will replace Nick Ascheim, who will move into a new role that is described as “improving digital and product [...]

  • Vogue, Conde Nast Entertainment Make Robert

    Robert Semmer Joins Condé Nast Entertainment & Vogue as Vice President of Video

    Condé Nast Entertainment and Vogue have named former Vice and Fader video executive Robert Semmer as their new vice president of video. Semmer will be based in New York and report to Croi McNamara, senior vice president of programming for Condé Nast Entertainment. “Anna and I are thrilled to welcome Robert to our award-winning video [...]

  • CEO of T-Mobile John Legere (L)

    FCC Chairman Backs T-Mobile, Sprint Merger With New Conditions

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave a thumbs-up to T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed $26 billion merger, after the companies committed to enhanced 5G buildout commitments and agreed to spin off Sprint’s Boost Mobile. T-Mobile and Sprint first announced their plans to merge in April 2018, looking to combine forces to take on industry leaders AT&T and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content