In October EPIX aired Schooled: The Price Of College Sports, a critically-acclaimed documentary produced by Andrew Muscato and Bobby Valentine, which looked at all the fast-growing issues in the multi-billion dollar business of college athletics and the inequities in the system.
The film examined in great detail the history of college athletics, and shed new light on all the business issues pertaining to big time college athletics through the eyes of several athletes and administrators who have been involved, and some times exploited, by the current system.
Last week the issue came back to the forefront, with a landmark ruling supporting several student-athletes request to unionize. The ruling came on the heels of all the issues the University of North Carolina has had to deal with concerning the lack of a credible education many of its athletes were getting, with many of the charges coming from University of North Carolina educator Mary Willingham, who was one of many featured in the documentary.
In light of the new and hot items in this issue, and just in time for The Final Four, Epix has chosen to re-air “SCHOOLED” on Thursday at 9:45 p.m. ET. Being in the forefront of the issue is something that EPIX as a channel is trying to more, which President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Greenberg stated when the film debuted last fall. We caught up with Greenberg to ask him how fortuitous a bounce it was for the channel to be out in front on the topic, and others.
Sports Media Report: When Epix talked about creating conversations around sports issues did you ever think this particular issue would become such a hot button so fast?
Mark Greenberg: Yes – I knew it was a big issue. We took on the project to elevate the discussion, and I’m pleased to see where the conversation has led. This is an important element of the EPIX documentary strategy: to provide a platform for important conversations and issues.
SMR: There was some controversy when the doc was originally aired for being so one-sided; what has the response been in the television industry?
MG: It’s true that Schooled took a strong stand and a told the story from the point of view of the student athletes. The NCAA was invited to participate in the doc, but refused. And, the producers reached out to over 100 university presidents and only Harvey Perlman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln agreed to be interviewed. The response from the industry has been great – positive critical reviews and a lot of discussion around the topic.
SMR: How do these docs help grow the base that Epix is building, and are there others planned for the near future?
MG: Docs that generate a discussion and tap into high profile issues help increase awareness and visibility for EPIX. We aim to be part of the dialogue. The next important doc we have planned is Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football (produced by Ross Greenberg) – before Jackie Robinson, before 'Brown Vs. Board of Education' and the Little Rock Nine, four African Americans broke the color barrier of the gridiron in 1946 and opened the field for African Americans to compete in professional sports. The EPIX Original Doc will premiere in September.
We are also continuing our In the Moment series which showcases iconic athletes including Lindsey Vonn and Amar’e Stoudemire and will feature Dwight Howard later this year. And also coming this year is 'Personal with Bill Rhoden,' a series of intimate conversations with notable sports personalities – beginning with Oscar De La Hoya, with more to be announced shortly.
SMR: Is this a one-off on the topic or would you consider doing an updated version in say, six months when more news has occurred?
MG: We’re following the developments and may consider a “behind-the-scenes” segment to play as an added value update on the network and across our digital outlets.
SMR: The sports documentary business seems to be exploding in recent months, what are the topics you are watching to see if there are compelling films being made about them?
MG: The sports documentary business is exploding because fans are passionate about their favorite sports and icons. Our focus covers a broad spectrum from the inspirational – like 'In the Moment,' following the stories of athletes who overcome obstacles to achieve greatness – to close up profiles – like 'Personal with Bill Rhoden' – to controversial issues like Schooled and Forgotten Four.