ESPN has announced programming for Fifty/50, a monumental initiative highlighting the civil rights journey of women across the sports and cultural landscape with elements launching across The Walt Disney Company. The initiative commemorates the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding, and gave women the equal opportunity to play.
Over the course of June 2022, the company will present content and experiences that explore stories at the intersection of women, sports, culture and the fight for equality. Content highlights include “37 Words,” a four-part documentary series chronicling the hard-fought battle of equal rights in education and athletics from award-winning directors Dawn Porter (“John Lewis: Good Trouble”) and Nicole Newnham (“Crip Camp”); “Dream On,” from award-winning director Kristen Lappas (“Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible”), the story of the 1996 United States Women’s Olympic basketball team – the first multi-part 30 for 30 on a woman-centric story; and the Fifty/50 Shorts, five short films presented by W. Studios and Google that examine diverse stories of women in sports, all featuring women directors and producers. Additionally, ABC Owned Television Stations will present 50 inspiring stories from around the country that will air in newscasts in eight local markets, and Walt Disney World Resorts will feature an in-room channel dedicated to Fifty/50 content for the month of June. The marketing campaign for the initiative kicked off today, with a spot narrated by acclaimed actor Tessa Thompson.
Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, said: “This is an important milestone for Title IX and we wanted to find creative ways to celebrate it across ESPN and The Walt Disney Company. Whether it is our commitment to a rich package of live women’s sports highlighting the stories of female athletes across our platforms, the many talented women working in front of the camera, or the diverse teams behind the content we create, our commitment to elevating women in sports is unwavering. Fifty/50 has been an incredible endeavor made possible by so many at the company, and I have no doubt sports fans will appreciate the extraordinary work they have created.”
Added Debra OConnell, president of Networks for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution: “Fifty/50 is a significant initiative for The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates; the breadth of content is a reflection of the progress that has occurred over the last 50 years and how much more is still to be done. We are proud of the joint collaboration across our networks to bring to life so many remarkable stories about the women who have broken countless barriers.”
Notable content from the initiative includes:
- “37 Words” Directed by Dawn Porter & Nicole Newnham. From ESPN Films, Industrial Media, and Trilogy Films, “37 Words” tells the inspiring story of Title IX – the hard-fought battle to push for equal rights in education and athletics; the decades-spanning effort to nullify its impact; and the rippling impacts of the landmark civil rights law that continue to resonate today. Helmed by acclaimed directors Dawn Porter and Nicole Newnham, the four-part series charts the spectacular transformation that 37 words have inspired in American culture and the lives of women, as well as the many ways in which the spirit of this bold law has yet to be fully realized. “37 Words” will premiere June 21 (Parts 1 & 2) and June 28th (Parts 3 & 4) at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
- 30 for 30: “Dream On” Directed by Kristen Lappas. A three-part documentary telling the story of how the dominating run to a gold medal by the 1996 United States women’s Olympic team cemented the birth of the WNBA, and inspired generations of stars to follow. The film chronicles the team’s formation; its worldwide tour that preceded the Olympics; its tremendous performance at the Atlanta Games; and its impact that continues to resonate more than a quarter century later. “Dream On” will premiere June 15 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
- W. Studios Fifty/50 Shorts Presented by Google. Five W. Studios short films presented by Google, meeting at the intersection of women, sports, culture and the fight for equality. The films present a diverse line up of creatives and content that speak to viewers from a place of authenticity and boldness, both in the story and in the method of storytelling, all helmed and executive produced by women. The creators include directors Allison Glock (executive producer Fifty/50) and Kate T. Parker (“Strong is the New Pretty”); Shayla Harris (producer, “Who Killed Malcolm X?”); Bethany Mollenkof; Elizabeth Lo (“Stray”); and Bonni Cohen (“Athlete A”), as well as executive producer Robin Roberts. The five films are a part of Google’s commitment last year to increase visibility and coverage of women’s sports and will premiere June 1 on ESPN2.
- ABC Owned Television Stations. The No. 1 trusted market leader in local news, kicks off Fifty/50 on March 17 with 50 inspiring stories of powerful, courageous, women pioneers breaking barriers stemming from the 37-word law that changed the lives of women across the U.S. The featured stories will air across ABC-owned stations ABC7/WABC-TV New York, ABC7/KABC-TV Los Angeles, ABC7/WLS-TV Chicago, 6ABC/WPVI-TV Philadelphia, ABC7/KGO-TV ABC7/San Francisco, ABC13/KTRK-TV Houston, ABC11/WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham and ABC30/KFSN-TV Fresno with a premiere on March 17, and additional linear premieres featuring new stories on April 14 and May 12. The presentation of 50 stories is a joint collaboration between the station group’s newsrooms, race and culture content team and Localish.
- Localish. An award-winning multiplatform lifestyle network from ABC Owned Television Stations contributed half of the 50 stories of Title IX and the women moving the world forward. Michael Koenigs is the executive producer of Localish.
- ABC Owned Television Stations’ Race and Culture Content Team Presents “Our America: Fifty/50,” a collection of eight short documentaries profiling young women and girls associated with the Women Sports Foundation and espnW’s Sports 4 Life Program who are working to level the playing field through athletics and activism. The eight short documentaries will culminate in a 90-minute documentary that will air on Title IX’s 50th anniversary, Thursday, June 23 across ABC Owned Television Stations’ linear broadcast, connected TV apps, Localish Network on Hulu and ESPN+ platforms. The special honors the stories of Title IX and the women moving the world forward. “Our America Fifty/50” is led by Emmy award-winning Race and Culture Executive Producer Nzinga Blake, and Race and Culture Executive Producer Porsha Grant.
- Walt Disney World Resorts. An in-room channel dedicated to Fifty/50 content at Walt Disney World Resorts. The initiative kicked off on Sunday, February 27th as part of the Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort where 50 women from the Fifty/50 initiative ran in celebration.
As part of its commitment to girls and women in sports, ESPN also is continuing its long partnership with the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sports 4 Life program, which has enabled over 69,000 girls to play since 2013. In addition to funding sports programming for girls across the country, Fifty/50 will also capture stories of many of the girls who are using the power of sports to create the futures they imagine.
Fifty/50 is presented by Champion and Google. In addition to the above-noted content, there will be additional commitments of content and experiences integrated across various platforms in multiple formats throughout the month of June, including long-form reporting, documentary storytelling, podcasts, features, vignettes, digital, social, and more for The Walt Disney Company. Additional information to be announced.