ESPN accelerates three high-profile “30 for 30” documentaries, revamps ESPYs

Following the huge success of the multi-part Michael Jordan-themed series The Last Dance, ESPN has decided to push forward the release dates of three new “30 for 30” sports documentaries.

The Last Dance‘s launch date was moved up from June to April to help give sports fans some much-needed new content amid the competition shutdown enforced by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The move had paid off in a big way, with the first six episodes averaging 5.8 million viewers across its premieres, while the series has gained significantly more viewers in re-airs and on-demand viewing.

With live sports not likely to return in a meaningful way until later this year due to the health crisis, ESPN has decided to continue to fill the void with further “30 for 30” documentaries about high-profile subjects over successive Sunday evenings.

A week after The Last Dance ends on May 17, ESPN will air the first episode of a two-part series on disgraced US cyclist Lance Armstrong, at 9pm ET on May 24. Lance charts Armstrong’s inspiring rise and dramatic fall from grace through a series of interviews and behind-the-scenes access. Part two will premiere the following Sunday, May 31.

This will be followed by Be Water, which is described as “an intimate and very personal look at the life and purpose that motivated Bruce Lee, the martial artist trailblazer and pop culture icon.” That will debut on June 7 at 9pm ET.

On June 14, ESPN will broadcast Long Gone Summer, which examines the summer of 1998 when the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa both broke Roger Maris’s iconic record of 61 home runs in a single Major League Baseball season, capturing the imagination of sports fans.

The epic run chase was subsequently tainted, however, with McGwire admitting in 2010 that he had used performance-enhancing steroids throughout his career. Sosa also reportedly tested positive for drugs but he has never come clean on the issue.

ESPN also announced that the 2020 ESPYS awards “will shift its customary focus from outstanding athletic achievement in order to further highlight narratives of service, perseverance, and courage from within the world of sports.”

New awards will include the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award and the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.

The event will take place at 9pm ET on June 21 and be broadcast on ESPN. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be a virtual event rather than in front of a live audience of sports superstars. The ESPYS are usually held in mid-July and aired on sister channel ABC.