ESPN is launching its most ambitious storytelling initiative to date, and the first story the sports giant will tell through a new multiplatform format is a cocaine-fueled tale with roots right here in Miami. Pin Kings tells the tale of Alex DeCubas and Kevin Pedersen, high-school wrestling co-captains whose lives took opposite turns.
After high school, DeCubas became the biggest trafficker of Colombian cocaine on the East Coast, while Pedersen went on to become a DEA agent tasked with busting the Colombian cartels and their American partners — including his onetime teammate and friend DeCubas.
DeCubas' and Pedersen's stories, and how they eventually intersected, will be told in just about every way imaginable across every platform ESPN has at its disposal.
During the next month, the sports network will broadcast a binge-worthy 16-episode audio podcast series on espn.com. Digital presentations of Pin Kings will show on espn.com, and a 5,000-word feature will appear in the "NFL Preview" issue of ESPN the Magazine. An hourlong TV special titled SC Featured: Pin Kings is slated to debut Monday, August 22, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Meanwhile, the entire program will be made available to stream on WatchESPN and the ESPN App prior to the TV premiere.
It's a huge venture for the sports mecca, and one that ESPN vice president Craig Lazarus says was necessary to tell a tale that couldn't be contained to the traditional forms of storytelling.
"The biggest difference with this story is the 16-episode podcast," Lazarus tells New Times. "That is new for ESPN. In this case, our producer-reporter team of Jon Fish and Brett Forrest pitched the story to the SC Featured management team, and as the reporting got deeper and deeper, we realized there was so much to the tale that just one story on SportsCenter or a one-hour documentary wasn’t enough. A long-form written piece and nearly eight hours of an episodic podcast tell even more of the story with nuance and detail."
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The TV, print, digital, and audio content will all cover the same narrative, but the various formats will hold up the hard work and countless hours ESPN put into making sure the story is told right.
"People will experience the story differently on the different platforms," Lazarus says. "On television, seeing Alex and Kevin tell their stories, seeing the rare footage we uncovered, seeing the actual locations in Colombia, all provide a different experience than listening or reading. And however you experience this story, there is a major twist at the end. For those who don’t know where Alex and Kevin are today, that might be the most shocking part. So watch till the end of the hour show or listen to all 16 podcasts."
Lazarus says the Pin Kings story became a priority for ESPN after employees came across the story during research for their multiple storytelling brands. "We do multiplatform executions for many feature stories on SC Featured, Outside the Lines, and E:60 — three of our storytelling brands. As we did interviews, our reporting uncovered more fascinating details. The SC Featured management team realized this story had the potential for a bigger, more in-depth treatment than our typical cross-platform executions."
The podcasts have already begun to air on ESPN's website. The first digital treatment will appear August 18, and the TV specials will begin August 21. After all the audio, digital, and television content has aired, the Pin Kings feature will appear in the "NFL Preview" issue of ESPN the Magazine, which hits newsstands August 26.