South by Southwest will expand its reach in March to incorporate sports-related programming, festival organizers announced Tuesday. SXsports will feature film screenings and panel discussions that highlight the intersection of creative industries, sports, innovation, pop culture and business.

Bill Simmons of ESPN and Grantland.com is one of the highlights of the early list of participants in the three-day event. The longtime ESPN columnist and podcast host will appear in conversation with Nate Silver, the former New York Times writer who is preparing to launch the website Five Thirty Eight, a partnership with ESPN that will focus on the statistical aspect of sports analysis. Silver served as the keynote speaker at SXSW Interactive in 2009 and came to national prominence during the last presidential election when he accurately predicted the results of the electoral college. SXsports runs March 7-9 and is open to all SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film registrants.

"The world of sports truly hits the sweet spot of SXSW, the vital intersection of entertainment and technology, and we intend to approach it with the same forward-thinking and culturally relevant perspective we shine on all of our events," said Rebecca Feferman, head of SXSW Film media relations and programmer. "We can’t wait to connect the sports world with our passionate audience of early adopters, culture nuts, digital creatives, and so much more."

Peter Guber, chairman of Mandalay Sports Media, will serve as the opening speaker of the event, delivering an address titled "Hunting for Elephants: Creating Enterprise Value in Sports Media." Other scheduled speakers include San Francisco Giants social media director Bryan Srabian, University of Michigan athletic department director of digital marketing Jordan Maleh, and SportsStream’s Bob Morgan, who will discuss how technology has influenced fans’ decisions to watch games in person versus from the comfort of their own couch. Tech Texas University football coach Kliff Kingsbury is slated to discuss innovations in college football with USA Today writer George Schroeder.

SXSW started in 1987 as a music festival that attracted a largely local crowd and industry representatives, giving bands the opportunity to increase their visibility and propel their careers. The festival expanded in 1994 to include film and multimedia components. Multimedia, split off into its own category in 1995, before being renamed SXSW Interactive in 1999.

The festival has since attracted a global audience, with bands, filmmakers and tech innovators and cultural early-adopters from around the world descending on Austin each year. The number of Interactive registrants exceeded the number of music registrants for the first time in 2010, and SXsports will undoubtedly speak to the convergence of technology and how fans track and peripherally participate in their favorite college and professional sports.

SXsports will use the same PanelPicker function that has been used at previous conferences to allow attendees to weigh in on programming choices. SXSW plans to announce additional SXsports programming in early November. SXSW Film is still accepting sports-related film submissions, and the lineup of films for SXsports will be announced along with the SXSW Film lineup in early February.