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Fox Sports’ ‘Magnify’ Series Puts Focus on Socially Relevant Stories

The list of executive producers who have worked on films in Fox Sports’ “Magnify” documentary series reads like the lineup of an all-star revival of the old MTV show “Rock N’ Jock.” EPs on previous and forthcoming installments include LeBron James, Common, Dwyane Wade, Chance the Rapper, and Kevin Durant. The newest addition to the series, director Andrew Renzi’s “They Fight,” boasts Drew Brees, Tony Parker, Derrick Brooks, and Michael Finley in exec producer roles.

Fox announced the acquisition of “They Fight” last week. The film tells the story of an after-school boxing program in Washington D.C.’s Ward 8 — one of the city’s most economically challenged areas. The movie fits the mission of the “Magnify” series — leveraging the power of star athletes and entertainers, as well as Fox’s television platforms, to push eyeballs to off-the-beaten path socially conscious sport stories.

“It’s been pretty crazy how quickly it happened,” said Charlie Dixon, Fox Sports’ executive VP of content. “So many athletes are forced into a sound byte in a press conference. When word got out that we’re trying to affect change, tell the stories that they’re actually passionate about, it’s been insane how many people actually had ideas. People really are gravitating toward this project.”

“Magnify” kicked off last year with “89 Blocks,” a doc produced by James and business partner Maverick Carter about a high school football team in East St. Louis, Mo. The next film, “Shot in the Dark,” from Wade and Chance the Rapper, told the story of a Chicago high-school basketball team’s struggle for a championship as one star player sits in jail and another is wounded by a stray bullet. The upcoming “Nossa Chape,” from Jeff and Michael Zimbalist debuted this year at SXSW and tells the tragic story of Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense’s 2016 plane crash in Colombia. “Q Ball,” from exec producer Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman, is set to premiere next year, telling the story of an inmate basketball team at San Quentin State Prison in California.

“Nossa Chape” will make its television debut June 23 on Fox Broadcasting during the World Cup. “Shot in the Dark” and “89 Blocks” also made their TV premieres on FBC.

“You can’t ask for a better platform to premiere these films and to bring an audience in and to get people to start to realize Fox can be a place for documentaries,” said Gabe Spitzer, senior VP and exec producer at Fox Sports Films.

“Charlie and I knew we wanted to get into this premium prestige documentary space,” Spitzer added. “Especially in the sports world, it’s a crowded space and a lot of other places do it really well. So we started to think about what can our lane be. The goal with us for building out this series is to tell stories that matter right now and that matter to people right now.”

Spitzer and Dixon conceived of the “Magnify” series, viewing it as a natural extension on Fox Sports’ other programming. Right now, the plan is to debut about four films a year. But long term, the execs hope to expand “Magnify’s” footprint, venturing into short-form and series documentary.

“If you look at the larger studio shows, it’s about having a conversation about the biggest sports stories in the world,” Dixon said. “That could be an NFC Championship game, it could be the Super Bowl, it could be the World Series, or it could be Tyquone Greer’s story about getting shot and coming back in Chicago. These are the stories that people want to talk about in sports, so we’re just continuing that through our doc series.”

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