Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox is closing a deal for screen rights to the oral history ESPN: Those Guys Have All The Fun. The studio will develop a feature about the formation of the 24-hour sports network. The pic will be produced by Michael De Luca, Trigger Street’s Dana Brunetti and Julie Yorn. The book by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales follows a format similar to Live From New York, the oral history they wrote about Saturday Night Live. Here, they use the voices of past and present ESPN personalities and producers to tell the story of how a father and son maxed out their credit cards to scrape together the cash to reserve a satellite transponder so they could show sporting events nonstop on a 24-hour station. The book is a gossipy journey about how that venture turned from a 1970s joke that started with broadcasts of Australian rules football and rodeo, to a dominant brand in the sporting world that broadcast pro football and baseball games and become arguably the most profitable cable network ever created.

The book created a stir in the film community when ICM began shopping it in recent weeks. I’m told there is interest from scribes and directors, and the studio and producers will start right away looking for someone to figure out the movie. The drama of ESPN’s formation — there’s plenty of back-stabbing and egos in this tale — has elements reminiscent of The Social Network, which counted De Luca and Brunetti among its producers. ICM made the deal.