Shortly before the premiere of Any Given Wednesday on HBO, details about Bill Simmons’ contract with the premium cable network and negotiations with other suitors that expressed interest after he left ESPN have been revealed.
Perhaps most importantly, USA Today‘s Gary Levin reported that Simmons has a three-year deal with HBO worth more than $20 million. That fits with the June 8 Hollywood Reporter feature that said Simmons would be earning between $7 million and $9 million per year, a raise from the $5 million annual salary he made at ESPN.
How many episodes of Any Given Wednesday will air this year? Simmons’ first season will last for 20 episodes, broadcast over the next 26 weeks. Looking at the calendar and considering that we’re already halfway through the year, that initial order makes sense. That schedule will take Simmons’ first run up to Dec. 21, right before the holidays and the end of college football and NFL regular seasons.
Next year and with that first season of experience logged in, Simmons will get 37 episodes to work with. It wasn’t revealed over how many weeks those 37 episodes would be spread, but it seems like a reasonable guess that season two of Any Given Wednesday will begin sometime in March or April, when the sports calendar really begins to fill up. (For that matter, will each run be referred to as a “season,” once Simmons gets rolling. The USA Today piece didn’t use that term, and HBO shows that stay on throughout the year with periodic breaks, such as Real Time with Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver don’t really use that classification either.)
A follow-up to THR‘s first Simmons feature published Wednesday revealed that his deal with HBO does not allow him to produce video or television content anywhere else, a contract stipulation that likely resulted from the network’s experience with Vice CEO Shane Smith. Smith has a show on HBO, but has gone on to develop other TV content elsewhere, notably the Viceland channel he created in partnership with A&E Networks.
The article by Lacey Rose also elaborates on the negotiations Simmons had with several other TV and internet outlets. Netflix was interested in Simmons creating sports documentaries, a la 30 for 30, for the streaming network, but not so much in a talk show. Showtime also showed major interest, but Simmons’ outspoken criticism of the NFL turned out to be a deal-breaker.
It certainly appears that Simmons found the right home for himself, and we’re just seeing the beginning of what’s to come from him at HBO. It’s been previously reported that he’ll create other sports-related programming for the network, as well as its streaming outlet, HBO Now. Awful Announcing has previously reported that Simmons is developing a documentary on pro wrestler Andre the Giant with director Jason Hehir.