SI TV, MLB To Turn Something Old Into Something New
First offering will be a doc on 1978’s Yankees-Red Sox AL East pennant battle
Although not every platform can win live-streaming rights to major sports events, that’s not the only way to attract sports-loving fans. Sports Illustrated’s SI TV has signed a deal with MLB that turns archive content into must-watch programming.
SI TV launched in November when the sports magazine made a play for the OTT space. A subscription is $4.99 per month direct or through Amazon Prime Channels; an ad-supported version is offered on FuboTV.
SI TV and MLB’s deal, which will run for slightly over a year, includes creation of two documentaries as well as access to full games and original titles from the MLB archives. The first new documentary will be 14 Back, which will look at the iconic American League East pennant battle between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in 1978. Directed by 10-time Emmy-winner Jonathan Hock, it will culminate with Bucky Dent’s famous home run in the seventh inning of the deciding game.
14 Back is a true partnership, with both SI TV and MLB taking a hand in its creation. The production team is sitting down with several of the leading voices of that era, including people who lived the events and people who witnessed them. The team is currently about two-thirds through principal photography.
“14 Back actually originated with our Editor-in-Chief Chris Stone, who may or may not have grown up as a diehard Red Sox fan, right in that era, and Jon Hock has been pretty vocal about speaking of his childhood as a diehard Yankees fan right in the heart of that era,” says Josh Oshinsky, VP, programming, SI TV. “The first time we got the two of them together to talk about the project, it was pretty clear we had the right team in place, with the ultimate knowledge base of a Yankee fan and the ultimate knowledge base of a Red Sox fan combining. We think we have something pretty special.”
SI TV plans to start releasing shoulder content through its social-media channels in the weeks before the 14 Back debut. Oshinsky is staying mum about who’s involved until then. The doc is set to premiere on Oct. 2, the 40th anniversary of that tie-breaking game. The two companies haven’t yet decided what the next documentary will be.
SI TV has thought of a clever way to present archived games from the MLB library: it’s asking the pros to pick their favorites. The first selections make up the Ace’s Choice series, with four of baseball’s greatest pitchers — Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson — selecting their favorite moments. The games will be presented as they originally aired, and fans will be able to hear commentary from the aces either alongside the games or through social channels (SI TV hasn’t decided yet).
Future series might focus on top sluggers, top postseason experiences, or unlikely heroes. One of the joys of being at Sports Illustrated, Oshinsky says, is being able to get in a conference room and white-board ideas with the world’s top baseball experts. By presenting archive content in new ways, he hopes to show how enduring these moments are.
“We think that these games are of interest to all ages and all eras of fans of this sport,” he explains. “Pedro Martinez is relevant every single day, if you’re a baseball fan. All of these folks, these names, are names that are timeless. And the ability to re-watch Pedro vs. Roger Clemens from May of 2000 is an experience that nobody else is providing,”
SI TV will also present existing shows and documentaries from MLB’s library, but exactly which titles is still being worked out. Look for them to show up in the next couple of weeks. If die-hard Mets fan Oshinsky has anything to say about it — and he certainly does — selections will include a few titles about a certain Amazin’ team from Queens.
“The documentary that we produced with Major League Baseball at Sports Illustrated, Loyal ’Til the Last Out, is something that we’re really excited to be adding to SI TV. That was around the 7 Line Army, the wildly popular and insane and fun group of [Mets] fans. We’ll also be looking to bring back some stories from 1986 and most likely a documentary that Major League Baseball did in 2015 called Tears of Joy, which featured interviews with Jim Breuer and Hank Azaria and a number of super-famous Mets fans that chronicled their run to the World Series.”
Are those personal selections? “Maybe I had something to do with it,” he says with a smile.