After success of 'The Last Dance,' ESPN moves up premiere of three more documentaries to fill sports void


With “The Last Dance” delivering record ratings amid the coronavirus shutdown of the sports world, ESPN is betting on its audience still having an appetite for content.

Like it did with “The Last Dance,” ESPN is pushing out three “30 for 30” documentaries earlier than scheduled to air in the weeks following the finale of its Michael Jordan documentary.

The ESPN documentaries following ‘The Last Dance’

Those documentaries are:

• “LANCE,” a two-parter based on the career of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, airing on May 24 and May 31

• “Be Water,” a look at the life of martial arts icon Bruce Lee, airing on June 7

• “Long Gone Summer,” the story of the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, airing on June 14

While ESPN had to rush production of the “The Last Dance” to air it as early as possible after the coronavirus pandemic swallowed its entire sports schedule, it’s likely no such effort was made for these documentaries.

The Armstrong and Lee documentaries have both already aired at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, while “Long Gone Summer” had been selected for the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

Home run sluggers Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, left, and St. Louis Cardinals' Mark McGwire laugh together during a news conference in St. Louis, Monday morning,  Sept. 7, 1998. Both men are chasing Roger Maris' major league record of 61 home runs in a season. Heading into Monday's game between the Cubs and Cardinals, McGwire has 60 home runs and Sosa has 58. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
"Long Gone Summer" will feature in-depth interviews with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)

So for the next two months, an ESPN documentary will be airing Sunday night. It seems unlikely the next few documentaries see the runaway success of the “The Last Dance,” but the network will still likely be striking while the iron is hot when it comes to the demand for new sports content.

ESPN also rushing ESPYS, airing Korean baseball games

In a similar vein, ESPN also announced Tuesday that it will air the ESPYS on June 21, about a month earlier than usual. As ESPN describes it, the virtual show will focus more on the sports world’s service and perseverance as it navigates the coronavirus pandemic.

ESPN will also be airing baseball games from South Korea’s KBO on an almost nightly basis for a while, another sign of these interesting times on the network’s schedule.

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Originally published