ESPN Hires Statistics Blogger Silver From New York Times

Nate Silver, the statistics blogger who correctly called every U.S. state in the last presidential election, will leave the New York Times to join Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN network, taking his FiveThirtyEight website with him.

Silver will join ESPN this year, covering sports and topics such as economics, culture and science, according to a statement today on the network’s website. He will also provide political analysis for Disney’s ABC and continue to forecast election results. Disney bought FiveThirtyEight, company officials said on a conference call without disclosing terms.

Hiring Silver bolsters the lineup at ESPN, the most-watched sports channel, as it prepares for battle with 21st Century Fox Inc.’s coming Fox Sports 1 in August. Silver rose to prominence during the 2012 election, driving Web traffic to the New York Times with his data-driven approach. In addition to Silver, ESPN this month said ex-MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann will rejoin the sports network.

“We really care about smart, talented individuals,” ESPN President John Skipper said on the conference call. “Nate has a unique blend of creativity and journalism -- this will extend our leadership.”

Silver’s state-by-state forecast in the last election was perfect, outperforming established pollsters including Gallup. He cited Grantland, Bill Simmons’ sports website noted for its long-form journalism, as one reason he joined ESPN.

“Grantland is a pretty good precedent for our size,” Silver said on the call. “It’s built around someone’s sensibility and it’s an independent voice within ESPN.”

The New York Times reported last week that Silver will join ESPN after his contract with the newspaper runs out next month.

“We valued our partnership with Nate, particularly during the 2012 election campaign, and we wish him every success in the future,” the New York Times Co. said today in a statement.

Times Co. fell 0.3 percent to $12.03 at the close today in New York. Disney, based in Burbank, California, fell 1.2 percent to $64.40.

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