HBO, ‘SI’ Tackle ‘Sports in America’ In a Series

Sports Illustrated is extending an
existing partnership with Time Warner
Inc. sibling HBO to develop a multipart
documentary series focusing on sports in

The multiplatform Sport in America: Our
Defining Stories
will examine
how the universal thread of
sports has shaped America’s
character. It’s intended to air
on HBO in 2013.

“It will be more about ideas
and stories more about statistics
and scores,” SI sports group editor
Terry McDonell told Multichannel News.
“The idea is really how sports have defined
the American character and reflected it.”

McDonell said the documentary episodes
would most likely be focused on
sports themes rather than a chronological
account of sports in America.

While concepts for the documentary are
still being fleshed out, McDonell said one
episode could be devoted to how tribal
sports are among fans.

“We’re looking at a big transforming documentary
series,” McDonnell said, comparing
the project’s exploration of sports to the
BBC’s groundbreaking documentary series,
Planet Earth

The TV series will be complemented
by Sports Illustrated
editorial packages
and social-media integration
on both the HBO and SI

SI already collaborates with HBO on a
segment in each episode of sports magazine
show Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.

“This is one of the most ambitious sports
projects that HBO has launched and we are
delighted to collaborate with such prestigious
partners, who share our passion for
storytelling,” Rick Bernstein, executive producer
for HBO Sports, said in a statement.

As part of the Sport in America: Our Defining
initiative, HBO and SI will
collect personal narratives from athletes,
politicians, writers, team owners and anyone
else who have been a part of sports’
most transcendent events to examine what
these events meant to the country and what
they tell us about who we are.

Fans also will be encouraged to weigh
in. SI last week launched a new website,, where fans can record
and submit videotaped responses of their
favorite sports memories. A select group of
fans will be chosen to appear in the documentary

“We think we’ll get a lot of stories from
people and we will be able to use that, along
with the perspective of athletes and other
people who make up what this culture is,”
McDonell said. “When we bundle all of our
platforms and our social media, I would
hope we would be formidable in presenting
something that reaches people with some

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.