The last few months have seen ESPN running original sports documentaries on many Sunday nights, from 30 for 30 series The Last Dance through other 30 for 30 installments Lance, Be Water and Long Gone Summer. After Long Gone Summer, they expanded to other documentaries that previously aired elsewhere, including Free Solo and Foosballers (both of which premiered on a Friday) and this week’s slate of Koshien: Japan’s Field of Dreams, EDDIE, Finding Big Country and Born to Play. And now, they’re expanding well beyond sports, announcing Wednesday that this Sunday will have them presenting…a concert film on the Eagles. Introduced by Chris Berman, no less. Here’s more from the release, which is frankly one of the strangest things we’ve seen on ESPN Press Room in a while:
ESPN will air the Eagles concert “Live From The Forum MMXVIII” this holiday weekend. The Eagles spent the majority of 2018 on an extensive North American tour with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey joining Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit. Earning rave reviews from fans and critics alike, the quintet arrived at the Forum in Los Angeles for three sold-out concerts on September 12, 14, and 15. Highlights from all three shows have now been compiled for the new 26-song live album and concert film that will premiere on ESPN this Sunday, July 5th, at 8 PM EDT / 5 PM PDT, introduced by longtime Eagles fan ESPN’s Chris Berman.
“Sports and music have long been at the top of the list for being able to bring people of all types together. The Eagles have been doing just that for almost half a century,” said ESPN’s Chris Berman. “We at ESPN are thrilled beyond belief to share this premiere with everyone! What a wonderful way to cap off the holiday weekend!”
“Music and sports fans have been shut out from live events for more than three months. The premiere of LIVE FROM THE FORUM MMXVIII, this July 4th weekend on ESPN, is the Eagles’ gift to their fans,” said Eagles’ longtime manager, Irving Azoff. “We are honored to be part of ESPN’s Sunday night programming, the home of such acclaimed shows as ’30 for 30′ and ‘The Last Dance.’”
Said Burke Magnus, Executive Vice President, Programming Acquisitions and Scheduling, “This was a unique opportunity to partner with one of the greatest bands of all time to bring audiences some new and exciting entertainment. For many music and sports are inextricably linked, so we are thrilled to present this momentous event from one of the cathedrals of sports – – The Forum.”
There’s a whole lot to laugh about there, from “Sports and music have long been at the top of the list for being able to bring people of all types together” (never mind all the times sports and music very much haven’t brought people together!) to “We are honored to be part of ESPN’s Sunday night programming” (yes, the Eagles have clearly been eyeing that for a while) to “music and sports are inextricably linked” as an excuse to televise a music concert that just happens to have taken place at a former sports venue (which hasn’t actually hosted a NHL or NBA game since 1999, and hasn’t hosted a WNBA game since 2000). And really, that logic could make almost any concert film fair game, as most of them are recorded at venues that also happen to be sports arenas. But with everyone complaining about how MTV doesn’t show much music any more, perhaps ESPN is pivoting to old MTV, or embracing the “Entertainment” part of their original “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” name.
And yes, there will absolutely be an audience for an Eagles’ concert film on cable TV, perhaps especially on the July 4 weekend. So this is an understandable programming decision for ESPN, even if they’re not sticking to sports, and it’s likely to draw bigger numbers than rerunning a 30 for 30 or an old game would. But this is still an incredible change from what ESPN usually shows; even the yearly The Ocho and the various Disney corporate tie-ins have closer ties to sports content than an Eagles concert film. This is really taking it to the limit, and I can’t tell you why they elected to provide us with this particular heartache tonight. But viewers at least have the opportunity to check out from ESPN if they don’t want to watch Eagles content instead of sports, and perhaps this programming will work out for the network in the long run.