ESPN creates production division in tandem with Disney

The ESPN sports network has announced a new initiative designed to develop, produce and distribute (on TV and in theaters) scripted sports films, in collaboration with its parent company Walt Disney.

The new unit, ESPN Films, will be part of the ESPN Content Development group and will develop scripted and documentary film projects for television and theatrical release. The first such project, "30/30," is a celebration of the last three decades of sports timed with ESPN's 30th anniversary in September 2009.

For the “30/30” project, ESPN will invite 30 filmmakers to each tell a sports story. The one-hour films will begin airing Tuesday nights on ESPN in September 2009 and be televised through 2010. The filmmaker roster will be announced in the coming weeks and will include industry veterans as well as celebrities who share a passion for sports.

ESPN’s first foray into theatrical film began in March 2006 with the Sebastian Telfair biopic “Through the Fire.”

In 2008, ESPN and ESPN2 will televise up to 10 ESPN Films-branded projects in primetime windows beginning with the two-part, four-hour film “Black Magic” (March 16-17 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN); followed by “The Zen of Bobby V;” “Hellfighters;” “Bud Greenspan: At the Heart of the Games;” and “The Streak,” which chronicles the 2007-08 season of the Brandon High School wrestlers and their 34-year winning streak.

All of the projects will be televised in spring 2008 and considered for other ESPN brand extensions where appropriate. Additional films will be announced in the coming months.