ESPN will launch ‘Exit 31’

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Alex Weprin

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ESPN is bringing together its FiveThirtyEight, Grantland and ESPN Films franchises under one umbrella.

The new unit, dubbed "Exit 31" (a reference to the exit off of Interstate 84 in Bristol, Connecticut where ESPN is based), will combine resources to cover stories, the sports network said in a statement Monday. The division will also "continue to expand into content beyond sports when appropriate," the network said, noting that FiveThirtyEight and Grantland already cover topics such as entertainment and politics.

The new division will launch "FiveThirtyEight Films," which will create short-form and long-form films "using data analytics as a part of its ethos," and a video podcast network from Grantland.

Exit 31 will be led by Marie Donoghue, senior V.P. of global strategy, business development and business affairs. FiveThirtyEight chief Nate Silver, Grantland founder Bill Simmons, Grantland and FiveThirtyEight business chief David Cho and ESPN Films V.P. Connor Schell will all report to Donoghue.

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"Formally combining these teams will create a collaborative studio environment whose mission will be to take risks and experiment with editorial approach, visual presentation and programming across platforms," Donoghue said in a statement. "We hope to continue to bring a variety of creative people into ESPN from varied sources — including non-traditional sports media sources — to cross-pollinate within Exit 31 and across ESPN’s existing and award-winning content divisions.”

The expansion into video from FiveThirtyEight and Grantland is a significant one. Both sites were boen online, and have largely been text-focused. That said, Grantland has since created one of the most succesful podcast networks around, and a video expansion of that makes some sense. For FiveThirtyEight, turning data into video is a logical next step, with others trying to get in on that action already. NBC News has launched a data-centric video series on its newly relaunched NBCNews.com.