Is HBO Trying To Land Bill Simmons?

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Bill Simmons’ exit from ESPN roiled the sports world and excited media insiders when company president John Skipper announced that they were essentially firing him in May. The long-time sponsor of infamous Simmons rants and his defining oeuvre, Grantland, could no longer serve his growing needs as a publisher and personality and, according to reports, struggled to hide the growing enmity between Simmons and one-time friend Skipper.

As Simmons left, most of the speculation about where he would land pointed to other huge media networks, ones that could easily house his web projects and expose him to a television audience. HBO Now, with its ambitious plan to enter the online streaming game, has a need for original programming and the names who can carry their expansive vision. The Simmons seal is a highly-coveted stamp that attracts young male sports buffs, despite coming with a substantial price tag and his sometimes rebellious ways.

HBO doesn’t seem bothered, as this Hollywood Reporter feature explains, and is making a play to acquire him sooner than later:

…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.

He might be the “biggest media personality in sports,” but their vague plans to position Simmons within the HBO universe are the real canard here. How will they fit him into a slate that already includes HBO Real Sports? His 30 for 30 vehicle is an ESPN property and a competing sports-meets-culture program that he may not want to touch if he can’t shape it exclusively. Nevertheless, Simmons has his sights on more, that much we know, and HBO could probably provide that latitude and keep with his everyman sensibility:

Considerably more likely is Simmons, whom the network is said to have made a big play for after his unceremonious booting from the more corporate ESPN. Such a move would be straight out of the HBO playbook, which famously provided a creative reprieve for former ABC flameout Bill Maher many years earlier. Though Simmons is said to have several suitors, insiders say con­versations at HBO have focused on a TV show — something Simmons is believed to want — along with heavy digital extensions that make the prolific personality tailor-made for the HBO Now era. (via)

Whether or not Simmons will sign a deal with HBO is a mystery, but it sure does seem likely with HBO so openly flaunting his name in stories. It could be a power play to squeeze out other suitors or an indication that The Sports Guy has found a new, edgy home… where he will immediately re-arrange the furniture.

(Via the Hollywood Reporter)