The original idea was to make 30 films about amazing moments in sports and air them for the 30th anniversary of ESPN in 2009. Now seven years later, that original idea ended up being only Volume I, and an additional two volumes with 30 films each have been released, as well as a series of shorts and a specific series about soccer. Bill Simmons and Connor Schell’s inception grew into a highly rated franchise, and 30 for 30 has even won a Peabody and an Emmy award.
The concept was slow to gain attention, with viewership being well under the million mark. Halfway through Volume I, there was a steep increase, up to almost a 2.0 demo rating and nearly 2 million viewers. Since those early days, each volume has its highs and lows, but averages steady ratings and viewership in general.
Viewership varies from film to film, seemingly dependent upon the subject matter and its interest to viewers. Some of these films have been released at strategic times, allowing the subject to coincide with current events of the time, or upon anniversaries of important historical sports moments, driving additional curious viewers to the film.
The current Volume III began airing in October 2015, and this collection is still airing slowly through much of 2017. By the time of this writing, there have been 12 films aired. The first film from volume III aired on October 13, 2015, with 0.94 million viewers watching. Titled Trojan War, it chronicled the coaching career of Pete Carroll in the 2000s, when his college football team, the USC Trojans, saw great fame and great falls.
Also in this collection are films about boxing legend Evander Holyfield trying to get his first fight arranged with Mike Tyson in the late 1980s and early 1990s titled Chasing Tyson, which earned 1.2 million viewers when it aired; a film titled This Magic Moment aired in April 2016, and 1.5 million viewers tuned in for this chronicle of the Orlando Magic teams during the 1990s, when Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway led the team to stardom both on and off the court; and the most recent airing of Hit It Hard on November 1, 2016, about golf pro John Daly’s rise from mediocrity to double championships then back down to mediocre.
O.J.: Made in America, a 7.5-hour documentary that was presented under the 30 for 30 umbrella On ESPN as a five-part series, aired in June 2016, and was seen by over 35 million people in the US. It is not only about the notorious O.J. Simpson, his esteemed football career, and the infamous murder trial in 1995, but it also covers pressing issues such as race troubles and celebrity fascination in the US. Richard Deitsch Of Sports Illustrated, called the film “the best 30 for 30 documentary [ESPN] has ever produced. It is thrilling and uncompromising filmmaking… and it will make you look at the most famous murder case in United States history with fresh eyes and under a larger prism.”
With such high viewership for each film, and the proven longevity of the 30 for 30 format, there will likely be a Volume IV at some point in the future, although the question of ‘when’ is still up in the air. ESPN did announce in September 2016, that they will be producing a 30 for 30 podcast series which is slated to release in early 2017. The format is said to be similar, but focused on newer sport stories.
Have you been a fan of 30 for 30 since the beginning? Which of these films were your all-time favorite? Are you excited about the upcoming podcasts?
Let us know your thoughts about 30 for 30 by commenting with your answers to those questions! Subscribe with us if you want to be the first to know if this show gets canceled or renewed for Volume IV. We will send you official announcements about future premiere dates, news, and updates about this series.