ESPN no longer owns broadcast rights to the World Cup, but that apparently won’t stop the network from producing ambitious original programming in connection with the event.
On Monday, ESPN announced that it would air a 12-episode series called The Last Train to Russia in which soccer reporter Martín Ainstein will explore the World Cup host nation through visits to the 11 Russian host cities, riding from west to east along the Trans-Siberian railway. The series was produced in four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. It will air in the United States on ESPN Deportes, as well on ESPN channels in Latin America, Brazil, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, India and China.
“We are thrilled to premiere The Last Train to Russia, the first in our comprehensive global news and information coverage of the World Cup in Russia,” Rodolfo Martínez, vice president of production, ESPN International and ESPN Deportes said in a statement. “Russia is a country with rich culture and unique traditions. We expect that through Martin’s style of storytelling, we are able to offer a sense-of-place experience to World Cup fans.”
Here is the (Spanish-language) trailer ESPN released Monday:
ESPN has produced some excellent soccer documentary content in the past, including its 30 for 30: Soccer Stories series leading up to the 2014 World Cup and loads of video content centered on the U.S. Men’s National team during the tournament itself. The network was never likely to invest so heavily in soccer projects now that Fox owns exclusive rights to the World Cup, but it’s good to see the Worldwide Leader hasn’t given up on ambitious coverage of the World’s Game altogether.
The Last Train to Russia will debut Thursday, March 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN Deportes, with new episodes airing every week through the start of the World Cup in mid-June. Via ESPN, here is the full broadcast schedule.
|Thursday, March 22||8:30 p.m.||Episode 1: Saint Petersburg|
|Monday, March 26||8:30 p.m.||Episode 2: Nizhny Novgorod|
|Wednesday, April 4||8:30 p.m.||Episode 3: Saransk|
|Wednesday, April 11||8:30 p.m.||Episode 4: Samara|
|Tuesday, April 17||8:30 p.m.||Episode 5: Kazan|
|Wednesday, April 25||8:30 p.m.||Episode 6: Ekaterinburg|
|Wednesday, May 2||8:30 p.m.||Episode 7: Volgograd|
|Tuesday, May 8||8:30 p.m.||Episode 8: Rostov-on-Don|
|Friday, May 18||8:30 p.m.||Episode 9: Sochi|
|Thursday, May 24||8:30 p.m.||Episode 10: Kaliningrad|
|Friday, June 1||8:30 p.m.||Episode 11: Moscow 1|
|Monday, June 4||8:30 p.m.||Episode 12: Moscow 2|