Epix will look to advance its standing within a crowded sports-documentary field with the launch of a 2014 special on Houston Rockets’ center Dwight Howard.
Overall, the premium network hopes to develop approximately nine sports-themed documentaries over the next year. The aim for Epix is to diversify its programming lineup and its audience makeup.
“Sports for our country have been a large [part] of what people are obsessed with— they look up to athletes as role models,” Epix CEO Mark Greenberg said. “These shows allow us to explore multiple sports to reach a broader audience.”
The Howard documentary, EPIX Presents Dwight Howard: In the Moment, will follow the 6-foot, 11-inch center’s National Basketball Association transition to the Rockets from the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as his private life off the court, according to Greenberg. “Dwight is clearly one of the top basketball players in the sport and I think he will also transcend basketball and appeal to a wide audience,” he said.
PAST ‘IN THE MOMENTS’
Epix had already produced other In The Moment docs showcasing Olympic Gold Medal winning skier Lindsay Vaughn (2011) and NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire (2013). “Those documentaries look at what athletes had to overcome to achieve greatness in their sports,” Greenberg said. “These are inspirational stories that we like doing.”
The Howard documentary also comes on the heels of the network’s announcement regarding the 2014 launch of a new 30-minute series, Personal With Bill Rhoden, in which the award-winning New York Times sportswriter interviews popular athletes and sports enthusiasts such as former boxer Oscar De La Hoya.
Epix is also working on a 2014 documentary dubbed The Forgotten Four, about the integration of pro football one year before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
The network has also set an Oct. 16 debut for Schooled: The Price of College Sports, an investigative documentary which examines the provocative issues surrounding the business of college sports and the treatment of athletes.
“The Forgotten Four and Schooled are more provocative [documentaries] that really tell something that people didn’t know about,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said the sports documentaries give the premium service, owned by Paramount Pictures, Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate, content that complements its theatrical movie-heavy lineup.
SPORTS DOCS ON RISE
Epix joins a very crowded sports documentary arena that includes several recent projects from premium competitors HBO and Showtime in the genre.
Showtime earlier this month aired LT: The Life and Times, chronicling the life of National Football League Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor both on and off the field, while HBO currently airs sports news/documentary series Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.
On basic cable, ESPN has its 30 for 30 documentary series, and Fox Sports is currently offering Being: Mike Tyson, a six-part documentary that follows the life of the former heavyweight champion.
Greenberg said he’s not concerned about competition in the realm of sports documentaries on television. “I think if you offer good, quality content people are going to find it,” he said.
Premium network Epix has set its sights on sports fans with nine documentaries due over the next year.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.