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Volume 21 No. 1
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Plugged In: Rebecca Feferman, SXSW Film

For the first time in its 28-year history, the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, is adding a sports-focused track to its programming, called SXsports. Three days of the 2014 festival’s two weeks next spring will include a series of presentations, panels and film screenings centered on the role of sports in technology and culture. Rebecca Feferman, a programmer and head of media relations for SXSW Film, has been principally involved in the development of the new sports track.

We want to focus on the future of sports — like LGBT equality issues and youth sports, the cultural impact angle. And ways technology can affect it all, like the enhancement of the in-stadium experience.

Why sports in SXSW?: Sports has been a small part of our festival for a number of years, and we really started to identify it as an exciting and entertaining area that also hits all the buttons of technology, creativity and culture that are already a big part of our festival. The decision to expand our sports programming for the 2014 event came pretty easily.
What’s planned?: There will be approximately 40 conference sessions and five or six films in the SXsports program. We’re having a featured session with Bill Simmons of Grantland and Nate Silver, who recently took his FiveThirtyEight blog to ESPN. We see Bill and Nate, who will sit with a moderator, as perfect for South By Southwest. We’ll also have a session with coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the U.S. men’s national team, just two months before the start of the World Cup. … Other panels and core conversations will cover everything from sports brands’ influence on culture to the use of drone technology.
Sponsorships?: There won’t be a title sponsorship for the sports section of the conference. There will be a handful of sales opportunities, like hosting happy hours and what we’re calling the Overtime Party, which is a nighttime event after the last day of our sports programming on Sunday, March 9.
Reaction to the new content?: It’s been exciting and wonderful. Many brands and major players in sports have offered to help and offered their input. There are still sessions that we are working on and will announce in the coming weeks. We’re looking at a lot of areas. We hope that we’re providing a broader look at the sports world that hasn’t been done before at a festival with our reach.

— By Christopher Botta