Grantland redux, at MTV

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MTV studios in Times Square. (Anfuehrer)
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Less than three months after ESPN shut down Grantland for good, another TV channel has been filling its ranks with the sports and culture blog’s talent — MTV's MTV News unit.

At least five ex-Grantlanders have been tapped to contribute to MTV News, including Brian Phillips, Marcus Ellsworth, Holly Anderson, Molly Lambert and Mark Lisanti.

Phillips will write features for the site, Lambert will serve as lead music writer and Lisanti will serve as senior director overseeing television and movies. Anderson will be director of politics and news, SB Nation editorial director Spencer Hall reported this morning.

The staffers are being shepherded by MTV News VP and editorial director Dan Fierman, who was the founding editorial director of Grantland before jumping ship for MTV right before ESPN pulled the plug Oct. 30.

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Grantland, which had been in limbo since the site’s editor in chief Bill Simmons left ESPN earlier in the year, was shut down to the despair of its dedicated readership. At least four ex-Grantlanders joined Simmons at HBO, while others remained with ESPN as the channel honored their contracts.

Based on the new hires, it appears as though Fierman is pulling talent from his old stomping ground to prepare for a larger transformation at the site.

While Grantland had a heavy focus on sports, its stories covered a broad range, with pop culture taking up a significant percentage of its content. Pop culture also happens to be the subject area that MTV News is known for, even as it has declined in influence over the past few years as new media upstarts like Vice and Buzzfeed jostle for domination of the demo that once looked first to MTV for their music and pop culture news.

While there is a clear Grantland influence at play, Fierman has also pulled in contributors from other sites, including Ezekiel Kweku, who has written for Vice Sports and Wonkette, as well as Pitchfork veterans Meaghan Garvey and Jessica Hopper. Others to join the ranks include writers David Turner and Hazel Cills, along with LA Weekly chief film critic Amy Nicholson.

The new hires were quick to wink at a possible revival of the type of writing Grantland was known and celebrated for.

“I could say more about what I'm planning, but I think the work had better speak for itself,” Phillips teased in a Facebook post about his new position at MTV. “So I'll just say three things: 1) watch this space, 2) thanks for reading, and 3) whatever happens, I promise it won't be boring.”