SBD/July 23, 2013/Media

Political Analyst Silver Launching ESPN Blog In Similar Vein As Grantland

Silver said it is not a pure licensing deal with ESPN, but more of an all-in partnership
Political analyst Nate Silver, lauded in recent years for his accurate projections, yesterday said he will take his popular FiveThirtyEight blog from the N.Y. Times to ESPN, launching it in an independent voice similar to the Bill Simmons-led Grantland. Silver on a conference call said he is moving to a “dream job” at ESPN. Silver said, “The more we thought about it, the more excited I became. What I’ve done for politics at FiveThirtyEight is an approach we think is applicable to lots of areas. It’s not just going to be a politics site or a sports site. There’s lots of potential in business and economics.” ESPN President John Skipper said, “Nate has a really unique blend of creativity, journalism and statistical analysis that he can bring to ESPN.” Skipper added Silver’s blog will stay on the Times' site “probably through the end of August” and then launch as an ESPN-owned property. Silver said ESPN is buying the URL and the FiveThirtyEight trade name, which differs from his current deal with the Times. He added it is "not a pure licensing deal," but is a "more all-in partnership." Silver upon launch will be named Editor-in-Chief and will assemble a staff similar in size to that of Grantland’s -- in the “small dozens.” Silver said he has not made a decision on any hires. Skipper: “Politics remains at the core of what he does, so that’s going to be important. I think the range of topics will be quite wide.” Skipper quickly shot down rumors of Silver being a regular contributor to the new weeknight ESPN2 show “Olbermann,” saying web-based content will be Silver’s initial priority. He will, however, appear on ABC News during election season. Silver said, “I do think longer term there are so many resources here in terms of television, in terms of film, also a little bit in different products that we’ll have a lot of choices to make. We haven’t discussed which programs I’ll be on.” Skipper would not comment on the exact length of Silver’s deal, but called it a “long-term” agreement (Josh Carpenter, Staff Writer).

TV ROLE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Michael O'Connell noted ABC News President Brian Sherwood yesterday was "mentioned several times," but outside of Silver appearing on ABC News during the next election cycle, there was "no elaboration as to any on-air presence." Silver said, "I plan on spending a bunch of time with Bill (Simmons) in the coming months." Silver noted that it may "take up to a year before they're fully up and running" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 7/22).

NOT THE RIGHT FIT IN N.Y.? N.Y. TIMES Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Silver's "ability to drive traffic -- especially among young, non-newspaper readers with his FiveThiryEight blog -- was unmatched, and probably will remain so." However, Sullivan wrote, "I don’t think Nate Silver ever really fit into the Times culture and I think he was aware of that. He was, in a word, disruptive. ... Nate disrupted the traditional model of how to cover politics." Sullivan added a number of "traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work" (NYTIMES.com, 7/22). Silver yesterday regarding Sullivan's comments said, "I would say I love the people at ESPN, but this culture stuff at the Times was not a big factor in the decision" (Carpenter). Silver: "I'm interested in running a website, building out a business here, and having my opportunity to weigh in on different topics. I'm not interested in who I'm getting a beer with. I have plenty of people in my social circles for that" (NYMAG.com, 7/22).

ATTRACTIVE SUITOR: In Akron, George Thomas writes the fact that ESPN is "brokering in microsites that cater to their most talented individuals, such as Bill Simmons with Grantland.com, makes working there attractive, especially to Silver." It is a "brilliant move on the part of both parties involved" and Skipper, who has "landed Keith Olbermann and Silver in subsequent weeks, has "every right to be ecstatic welcoming a different journalistic perspective to the network’s sports coverage" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/23). MEDIA BISTRO's Gail Shister writes Silver's "migration from the New York Times to ESPN represents more than a new URL -- it augurs a sea change in the news business itself" (MEDIABISTRO.com, 7/23).
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