HBO 24/7 College Football show: What to expect - Sports Illustrated

HBO’s four-part 24/7 College Football series debuts on Wednesday, following a week spent filming the Florida Gators. “This is definitely the biggest challenge we’ve had with the 24/7 franchise,” senior producer Bentley Weiner said. The HBO crew has only a week to gather stories from more than 100 UF players, shadow the coaches’ preparation and recount their 38-0 shutout of Towson on Saturday. But the hardest part? They’ll have to do it all again, three more times for three other teams.

A different crew is already filming on Penn State’s campus for an episode next week, followed by reports from Arizona State and Washington State for the next two Wednesdays after that.

“We’ve been looking to get into the college space for a long time,” Weiner said. “We have a standard here in terms of raising the bar, and doing four schools in four weeks will do that.” The idea came from a collaboration with production executives Zac Reeder and Bo Mattingly (who has previously produced behind-the-scenes college content for ESPN).

Given the short time spent on each campus, the show will focus on each program’s head coach, which partly explains HBO’s choice of schools, where they will highlight Dan Mullen, James Franklin, Herm Edwards and Mike Leach. “You’ll really get to know the coach very well,” Weiner said. “Our goal is to have a mix of what it’s like to prepare in the middle of a season for a game … and also the human interest side.”

24/7 has previously profiled boxers, hockey players, and—last year—Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. So this will not only be the series’ first football show but also its first dealing with college athletes. “There is definitely a difference with universities and kids versus pro athletes,” Weiner said. “We’re learning as we go.” It remains to be seen how much the show will focus on the student side of life. Speaking to ESPN, Mattingly told viewers to expect moments “every bit as good as what you’ll find in Hard Knocks.”

A day before 24/7 College Football debuts, HBO will air a critically acclaimed Diego Maradona documentary, which SI’s Luis Miguel Echegaray recently called “an honest, intimate portrait” in his review. Meanwhile Grant Wahl spoke to director Asif Kapadia.

Why Another League Has Sold Its Rights to ESPN

The Bundesliga announced Monday that its matches will be moving to ESPN starting in 2020, confirming previous reports from The New York Post.

Almost all of the German soccer matches will be limited to ESPN+, though Bundesliga International CEO Robert Klein said a handful will appear on ESPN’s linear networks. “As a league we’ll look to ... have more over the period of the contract,” he added.

ESPN has not yet released its programming plans for its new acquisition. It would make sense, though, for the company to use Bundesliga games primarily to continuing drawing new users to its subscription platform. Focusing on ESPN+’s short-term growth, ESPN can also outspend many of its competitors given how much of a priority the new venture is. FOX previously carried the Bundesliga. The new deal is reportedly worth over $30 million per year for six years.

“We are looking to build the Bundesliga brand awareness and build revenues,” Klein said. “With this deal, we’re able to achieve both.”

In a pre-digital world, ESPN would have struggled to find broadcasting space for all of the weekend international soccer and college football/basketball action the company now owns, but ESPN+ allows for simultaneous airings, and targeted advertising lets the company simultaneously pitch its various offerings to different fan bases. Bundesliga’s hope is that its partner’s desire to add new subscribers will lead to more Bundesliga fans in the U.S. too. Explaining the deal, Klein also pointed to Disney’s upcoming bundle, which will include Disney+ and Hulu. “We will soon be in the 10s of millions [of subscribers],” Klein told Forbes.

“All you have to do is look at what we’ve done with Serie A, what we’ve done with the UFC,” ESPN+ general manager Russell Wolff said, offering a sense of the pitch made to Bundesliga officials earlier this year. “Those are content strands that are finding big promotion on ESPN’s linear television and driving subscription usage on ESPN+. It’s a great playbook.”

Wolff later added, “You will see more coverage of Bundesliga on ESPN FC as part of this, and you’ll see a lot more promotion of the Bundesliga. You’ll see us get behind it in a big way.”


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