Connor Schell was ESPN’s top content executive until he left the Disney sports-media giant at the end of 2020 in a bid to pursue new ventures. He will serve as the founder and CEO of a new studio with a remit to produce “high quality, culturally relevant, non-fiction storytelling both inside and outside of the sports world,” Chernin Entertainment said in an announcement Wednesday.
Chernin Entertainment is the sole investor in the new venture. Schell, Chernin and Jesse Jacobs, a co-founder of Chernin Group, will serve on its board of directors. Jenno Topping, president of Chernin Entertainment, will supervise the company’s relationship with the new studio, which includes ” a mutual first look” agreement as they identify scripted and unscripted projects. “Connor is by far one of the most prolific and talented producers of nonfiction storytelling and brings us a track record and instinct for creating culturally resonant and commercially viable content at a time when demand is high, and supply is low,” Peter Chernin said in a prepared statement. “The opportunities to make a difference and reach audiences with important stories are endless.”
Schell gained renown at ESPN for co-creating that network’s landmark “30 for 30” franchise, a program devoted to longer-form explorations of sports issues and personalities. Schell was an executive producer of ESPN’s “Made in America” series as well as “The Last Dance,” a mini series focused on a deep exploration of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
“I cannot imagine a better partner than Chernin Entertainment,” said Schell in a statement. “Peter’s reputation as a creative force and innovator across the entertainment space speaks for itself, and I am thrilled to work with him and his team. We are looking forward to collaborating with incredible storytellers to tell big, impactful stories of all kinds. I can’t wait to get going.”
Variety's Brian Steinberg contributed to this post.