ESPN Forms Exit 31 to House Grantland, FiveThirtyEight, and ESPN Films

/ Mar 10, 2014

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ESPN is forming a new business unit called Exit 31 to house Bill Simmons’ Grantland, Nate Silver’s soon-to-launch refresh of FiveThirtyEight, and ESPN Films. The goal of the umbrella unit, which is named after the I-84 exit that leads to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters, is to continue ESPN’s expansion into content that isn’t tied to live sports.

Specifically, per the announcement, Exit 31 will “experiment with subjects, formats, editorial approaches, and platforms to create offerings that complement ESPN’s already expansive storytelling in new and different ways.” In some cases, ESPN says the unit will also look at content that goes beyond the world of sports.

To an extent, Grantland has already been doing this, including with video, via the ESPN “30 for 30” digital shorts and other content on the site’s YouTube channel.

As far FiveThirtyEight, which ESPN acquired by poaching Silver from The New York Times, Silver has plans for the site that go beyond politics, with an eye toward tackling topics as diverse as sports, science, economics, and life (!).

Current Exit 31 projects include FiveThirtyEight Films, a collaboration between FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films to create short and long-form films, Grantland’s in-progress web series chronicling Laker star Steve Nash’s return, ESPN Films’ “30 for 30 Soccer Stories,” the ongoing “30 for 30” shorts, and a new documentary series that will follow the US Men’s Soccer Team in the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup.

Exit 31 will also work across the ESPN portfolio to develop new projects for the company’s traditional platforms.

The unit will be led by Marie Donoghue, SVP of global strategy, business development, and business affairs. Silver, Simmons, and Connor Schell, VP of ESPN Films, will all report to her.

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