ESPN has created a new content unit that will combine the resources of the existing ESPN Films documentary unit, Grantland and the soon-to-be launched FiveThirtyEight. It will be called "Exit 31." Why "Exit 31"? It signifies the exit off Route 84 in Connecticut that leads to ESPN's worldwide headquarters. Get it?
The most important takeaway is that under one umbrella, the unit will expand storytelling beyond the traditional platorms. So in essence, in addition to television and online platforms, Exit 31 will push the boundaries and look for new ways to expand the audience past ESPN's normal venues.
Exit 31 will be led by Marie Donoghue, ESPN vice president of global strategy, business development and business affairs. Bill Simmons, the fearless leader of Grantland and Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight will be among those to report to her.
ESPN says Exit 31 will make it easier for these three units to collaborate on projects. One such collaboration will be the new FiveThirtyEight Films which will create both short and long-form films using data analysis that has become the signature of statistical maven Silver.
Other projects under the Exit 31 banner will be ESPN Films' 30 for 30 documentary series on the US Men's Soccer Team leading to the World Cup, the exisiting 30 for 30 shorts project and a new Grantland video podcast network.
ESPN Films and Grantland have been churning out award-winning original content throughout the decade and the new unit will not change that. Having them under one umbrella will allow the creative process to flow freely and allow for some interesting collaborations.
It's easy to pick on ESPN, but the documentary and long-form units of the company have produced some very good stories over the years. It will be interesting to see the new projects under Exit 31.