ESPN is bringing in a new voice to oversee its ESPN Films division and the 30 For 30 series. The network announced on Monday that Marcia Cooke has been hired as vice president and executive producer for ESPN Films.
Cooke moves to ESPN from VICE Media Group, where she was senior vice president of global news and special projects. She takes over the position left open when Libby Geist left ESPN a year ago. Connor Schell, who spearheaded projects like the 30 For 30 series and ambitious long-form projects like O.J.: Made in America and The Last Dance, also left the network last November to launch his own production company.
During Cooke’s tenure, VICE boosted its unscripted and documentary content, drawing acclaim for series like the popular Dark Side of the Ring, short films, and longer features under its Vice Versa banner that covered topics including Elon Musk’s Space X program, Meghan Markle, HIV, and sneaker culture.
“ESPN creates groundbreaking stories for both sports fans and non-sports fans,” said Cooke in ESPN’s official announcement. “Quite simply, it’s essential viewing and I’m thrilled to be joining this esteemed organization.”
Cooke has had an enormously accomplished career in media. Before joining VICE, she was at CBS News for 24 years, producing the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley broadcast and stories for the network’s various news programs. Additionally, she served as CBS’s Asia Bureau Chief, the first Black person in that position, and oversaw the CBSN 24-hour streaming news network.
The ESPN Films division has appeared to prefer longer, multi-part documentaries in recent years, such as Once Upon a Time in Queens about the 1986 New York Mets and the upcoming Man in the Arena featuring Tom Brady. But the Brady docuseries will run on the ESPN+ streaming service, not the cable network. And the lean toward more ambitious projects has meant fewer of the one- to two-hour films previously seen in the 30 For 30 series.
Will that change under Cooke or will ESPN’s documentary content continue to boost the ESPN+ catalog rather than air on television? With 30 For 30, ESPN arguably wrested the sports documentary crown from HBO. But streaming outlets including Netflix and Hulu, cable networks like Showtime and EPIX, and league platforms including MLB Network and NFL Network have created significant competition in the space.
ESPN senior vice president of ESPN Films and original content Brian Lockhart may be hinting toward a greater push with what he said in the network’s statement.
“Marsha’s extensive production experience, creative mind, and global perspective make her a tremendous asset to our team,” said Lockhart. “As we prepare for a dramatic expansion of our storytelling scope, her strategic thinking and leadership will help guide this ambitious next phase of the 30 for 30 brand. We are delighted to welcome her to ESPN.”