ESPN has made its second high-profile signing in a week, and it’s someone well known to Hollywood political circles. The New York Times announced online tonight that its political number cruncher Nate Silver is heading to the sports giant and taking his FiveThirtyEight crystal ball column with him. Silver began his career by compiling spreadsheets of baseball statistics before he became the best known 2012 national election prognosticator and the most accurate. The NYT said that, in political years, he will have a role at ABC News, which is also owned by Disney. Most of the statisticians had Mitt Romney beating President Obama in the electoral college count for months prior to the election, but Silver called the contest correctly. (Said the president: “Nate Silver completely nailed it. The guy’s amazing.”) Prior to the 2008 election, Silver gained recognition for developing an algorithm known as PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm), which was used to predict players’ future performance.
The news of Silver’s defection comes just days after the ESPN re-signed Keith Olbermann to do a late-night show on ESPN2 and less than a month before News Corp launches its rival sports network Fox Sports 1. The NYT said Silver’s 3-year contract was set to expire in late August, “and his departure will most likely be interpreted as a blow to the company. … The relationship between The Times and Mr. Silver was mutually beneficial. The news organization gained web traffic and prestige by hosting his work. … Jill Abramson, the newspaper’s executive editor, and Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The New York Times Company, said earlier this year that they would try hard to sign Mr. Silver to a new contract. NBC News and its cable news channel MSNBC was another interested party… [Silver] occasionally hinted in interviews and public appearances that the [NYT] relationship was tense at times.”