ESPN joins Tribeca fest squad


NEW YORK -- ESPN and Tribeca Enterprises are launching the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, set to run during the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival with marketing support from ESPN.

The fest will feature sports film screenings and live events, including a "Sports Saturday" featuring outdoor activities, all the fest's indie films, sports stars, filmmakers and actors.

The cable network will provide promotional support in all media and help facilitate interactive Web programs tied to the event.

Terms were not disclosed for the multiyear deal, but reps for both sides said they would like to continue the arrangement for the foreseeable future.

The sports films at the fest will include independent projects seeking distribution, but ESPN Original entertainment senior vp Geoff Reiss said: "Our primary interest is not creating a marketplace per se; we're looking for an environment that's consumer-oriented. But if that happens, it's great."

Reiss said the deal developed after fellow execs, including ESPN executive vp content John Skipper, said, "Wouldn't it be cool to have an ESPN film festival?" Several of them attended a showing of the sports-related docu "Toots" at this year's Tribeca fest and were impressed by the scale of the event, leading them to approach Tribeca execs.

It also was a natural fit for Tribeca, said fest co-founder Craig Hatkoff, who noted that the event has shown about 30 sports-related films in its five-year history.

"We're not interested in getting into the film festival business, and (Tribeca) isn't interested in getting into the multinational sports media business," Reiss said, "but the two companies bring complementary strengths to each other."

One of the appealing factors to ESPN was Tribeca's potential for growth, evidenced by its recent collaboration with the Rome Film Festival. Reiss said he hopes the new fest will expand with Tribeca.

Tribeca runs from April 25-May 5.