22 July 2015

Bill Simmons is headed to HBO

(YouTube)
Bill Simmons, remember that guy? You may not have seen much of him of late since the news of his pending departure from ESPN was broken over two months ago but now we know the answer of what he will be doing next (well, for the most part) by way of our old friend, Richard Deitsch. Come 2016, Simmons will debut a weekly television show on his new exclusive television home, HBO.

Simmons' show was described by the HBO press release as one that "will feature stories and guests from across the sports and cultural landscapes." He will also have the role of producing content such as video podcasts and features as well as working with HBO Sports to help develop shows and documentaries for the network.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported that the network was hot after Simmons a month ago, wooing Simmons with both a show as well as a role on the digital content side. In other words, pretty much what was agreed to and announced today.

The fit makes sense for both sides. Simmons famously chafed under the heavy hand of ESPN management multiple times, most famously last year regarding his sharp criticism of Roger Goodell and subsequent dares to the network to punish him. He would not have the same sort of issue at HBO which has gained a reputation of allowing free rein to their talent with notable examples being Bill Maher and John Oliver. Simmons even alluded to this in a statement:
It's no secret that HBO is the single best place for creative people in the entire media landscape.
HBO has long been a home for high-quality, premium programming which would allow him to create a franchise similar to the celebrated 30 for 30 series he created at ESPN.

And for HBO, while Simmons is still improving on being a forceful television presence like he is in his columns, luring a big name like him fits neatly into their strategy of expanding its footprint as it evolves in today's digital content age, most notably with the over-the-top service HBO Now that debuted back in April.

So while we now a significant piece of what the future holds for Simmons, we do not know all of it and that namely revolves on what will be the future of his writing content. Deitsch notes that the wording of the press release means that Simmons will land somewhere for the Grantland-like website that he is expected to launch at some point. He could still latch on and work in partnership with an existing media outlet or he could go independent with private backing (which is what I think he will ultimately do).

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