There is still residue from last month’s not-so shocking announcement around the sports media landscape: ESPN decided not to renew Bill Simmons’ contract, which is set to expire this coming September. Love or loathe him, Simmons’ influence and power as a media personality in the sports realm cannot be denied. Nicknamed “The Sports Guy,” Simmons is both cutting-edge, smart, polarizing and especially loyal to his love of all things Boston sports (specifically the Celtics and Patriots).
In the last six weeks following the “World Wide Leader’s” announcement, there has been speculation what the next move for Simmons will be. We’ve heard many brainstorming ideas, from him working with Turner and the NBA family, to maybe taking up a public offer from the Editor-In-Chief of VICE, to even my personal recommendation of starting his own media entity from scratch. Simmons has the influence and the name to garner names, advertisers and interest without restrictions.
However, according to TheHollywoodReporter.com, HBO is rumored to be considering offering The Sports Guy a soft landing spot in the near future.
On June 21, HBO will add a pair of testosterone-fueled new additions — Dwayne Johnson’s sports-dramedy “Ballers” and the Jack Black-Tim Robbins political half-hour “The Brink” — along with a second installment of the drama juggernaut True Detective. And the network will ramp up from there, with plans for more of the addictive Robert Durst docuseries, a not-yet-announced 1970s porn drama from The Wire’s David Simon and, if all goes as planned, a platform for ESPN cast-off Bill Simmons. While HBO executives are staying mum, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the network is in talks for a major multipart deal with the biggest media personality in sports (more on that later). …
Nothing is imminent at this time. However, one should be intrigued by a HBO/Bill Simmons pairing. For myself, the influence Bill Simmons has had on the sports world over the last decade cannot be denied. People do actually care what he has to say about a myriad of topics. Plus, with the unrestrictive backdrop HBO provides, a future Simmons talk show or podcast would no longer have to disclaim itself as “a show of free-flowing conversation that may touch on mature subjects.”
Another interesting angle which would work with the HBO brand is the huge interest in sports documentaries. In case people have been living under a rock, Bill Simmons was the kickstarter to the now popularized “30 for 30” series on ESPN that has since become priority television. HBO themselves are already in that business but do it from an edgier perspective. With Simmons’ experience and mindset, it would only make sense for the Bill Simmons/HBO marriage to work.
An unrelenting, unmuzzled and uncensored Bill Simmons would be great for sports media in a otherwise politically-correct world that ESPN/Disney seem comfortable living in. I’ve said for years the ESPN platform was supportive of launching Simmons’ career into the stratosphere, but he outgrew that company years ago. He also became more polarizing toward important figures such as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is a partner with ESPN on their Monday Night Football product, and even lashed out at fellow ESPN employees (which I enjoyed).
It’s time for a change for “The Sports Guy.” Here’s hoping HBO is the launching pad.