Bill Simmons Any Given Wednesday

When Bill Simmons went to HBO in July 2015 and signed a reported three-year deal worth $7 to $9 million annually, there were high expectations of him starring in his own TV show, developing other TV shows, succeeding with written, audio and video content at The Ringer (where HBO is an investor), and working on documentaries. So far, though, a lot of that hasn’t panned out as many hoped for, with Simmons’ Any Given Wednesday being cancelled after just five months and 17 of the planned 37 initial episodes.

While Simmons is involved with HBO’s upcoming Andre The Giant documentary, the news that The Ringer’s Game of Thrones aftershow After The Thrones will be moving from HBO’s digital platforms to Twitter means he’s no longer affiliated with a regular HBO show.  And according to Deadline’s Denise Petski and Nellie Andreeva, that move came from HBO cancelling the show after one season, then The Ringer landing it at Twitter.

HBO has canceled After The Thrones, the Game Of Thrones aftershow from Bill Simmons, which ran on its digital platforms. Following the network’s decision, Simmons’ The Ringer has moved to launch a similar, new aftershow titled Talk The Thrones, which will stream live on Twitter and Periscope following each episode beginning next month.

The Ringer announced on Twitter Talk Of Thrones‘ upcoming July debut, with Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan returning as hosts. The two also hosted the weekly recap talk show that aired on HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO On Demand.

This move may make some sense for the aftershow, which will be much easier for many to access on Twitter than on HBO’s digital platforms, and it may make some financial sense as well. Twitter’s been focusing on getting into all sorts of video content, from live sports to studio shows, and they may have offered The Ringer a decent deal here given that this aftershow already had somewhat of a following. And that could ultimately benefit HBO as well, both as an investor in The Ringer and as the broadcaster of Game of Thrones (the theory on the latter part is that a show devoted to talking about it may help boost Game of Thrones even further).

However, if HBO did move to cancel this, that certainly shows they weren’t all that high on it, and even if they didn’t, they definitely didn’t prioritize it all that highly if they let it go off-platform to Twitter. (And it will be interesting to see if they do any on-air or social media promotion for it now, the way they did back when it was an HBO property, as with posters like the one below.)
After The Thrones 2
The larger context of the HBO-Simmons deal and how little it’s produced so far is worth considering, too. Simmons has been affiliated with them for almost two full years, and in that time, only Any Given Wednesday (cancelled before the end of its first season) and After The Thrones (cancelled after its first season) have made it to HBO’s airwaves, with After The Thrones only airing on those HBO digital platforms to boot.

There was some talk about Simmons doing other on-air projects himself, or The Ringer producing other shows along the lines of After The Thrones, but none of that has happened so far. Yes, the Andre the Giant documentary is promising, especially as a HBO/WWE co-production directed by 30 for 30 veteran Jason Hehir, but two-thirds of the way through a $20 million contract, that’s not a great return on investment for HBO.

That’s leaving out the questions of The Ringer’s own success. Simmons said in February that the site was profitable (despite many questioning that), and it may do even better following their recent move to Vox for both publishing and ad sales. However, the reported traffic numbers haven’t been great, and while they’ve certainly found some things that have hit (especially with Simmons’ own podcast), they have a lot of staff for a site that’s not pulling in a ton of regular clicks. So, while investing in it may not prove disastrous for HBO, it certainly hasn’t been a runaway success to this point.

The other important thing to note here is that the man who hired Simmons, long-time HBO programming president Michael Lombardo, left that position last May for a production deal with the network. So in some ways, Simmons is the big-name free agent signed by the former general manager who isn’t necessarily in the new administration’s plans. That isn’t his fault, and it’s actually a somewhat charitable explanation for why he hasn’t landed more projects with HBO so far (maybe he would have if Lombardo had stayed on), but it also doesn’t bode well for his future at the network. (But hey, at least Simmons gets to go to tech conferences, trash ESPN and offer wildly-implausible predictions about the future of sports rights.)

Back in November 2016, we wondered if Simmons’ HBO deal was approaching Rick Reilly’s ESPN deal; a lot of money for a supposed multi-platform star, but without a lot of tangible results and with plenty of backlash. Even then, things looked better for Simmons than they did for Reilly; he had a much more loyal fanbase, a much wider skill set (including success as a podcast host, a documentary producer, and a website editor-in-chief), and it was easy to see why HBO thought he was worth the money. There were plenty of companies looking to land Simmons once he left ESPN, and HBO wasn’t alone in offering him a lucrative deal. But the results really haven’t been impressive so far, and unless Simmons has a lot of hits coming up in the third year of his contract, it’s hard to see this overall deal looking good. The cancellation and move of After The Thrones is just the latest blow for it.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • mike illingworth

    What exactly did Bill do at ESPN? Your place is the only place I hear his name and that wasn’t til he got to HBO. I’m not surprised

    • Roy Rogers

      He was editor-in-chief and founder of Grantland, a subsidiary website for ESPN, and was a producer for their 30 for 30 documentary series.

    • MetaphysicalMan

      In addition to Grantland and 30 for 30, he was on NBA Countdown, he had a very successful web column on ESPN pre-Grantland (that’s how he got big to begin with), had the ‘BS Report’ podcast. He kinda did a lot there.

  • tx_shaun

    Show wasn’t even good. The two hosts weren’t funny. Then the experts they bring on to explain the differences between the show and the books act like they’re the smartest people in Westeros.

  • John Danknich

    Bill Simmons believes his own hype and thinks he’s this big star. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • MBG9

    Wildly implausible — or anything following an -ly adverb — shouldn’t be hyphenated.

  • Stone Gossardish

    Unless you’ve seen the terms of Simmons deal, you don’t know how much HBO has lost. My guess is that deal was very contingent and they have lost very little $ from working with him.

  • newdog301

    It’s funny but football actually ended up predicting a shift in the rest of the marketplace before anything else.

    The last 5-10 years we’ve seen NFL teams decide that running backs simply aren’t worth it. They’ll draft them, keep them for the 3-5 years on the initial deal and then let them walk. There are certainly a few exceptions, but teams are not going to pay for an aging running back when they can get the same production for a lot less.

    We’re seeing that new mindset in TV and internet as well. FS1 thought Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless could move the needle and they’ve done very little. NBC thought signing Megyn Kelly would be some groundbreaking thing and so far it hasn’t been. HBO thought Bill Simmons could take them into a new media age and it hasn’t worked out. Jon Stewart’s project at the network got cancelled before it even got off the ground.

    All of the record labels that signed artists to huge 5-10 album deals after their initial hit debut are seeing huge losses too.

    One person is not going to turn your website or your TV network into a goldmine. It is better to build a brand organically due to young and hungry people than to try and manufacture success with your checkbook.

  • Alex Strachan

    Just my opinion, of course, but after several weeks of trying to sit through Any Given Wednesday, I came to the conclusion that Bill Simmons has all the charisma and TVQ of a limp newt. I’m not a fan of AMC nerdist Chris Hardwick, necessarily — too vacuous and bubblegum-pop-gee-whiz for me — but there’s a reason Hardwick is successful at what he does: It seems to come naturally to him. Simmons may be a big league wheeler-dealer behind the scenes, but his screen presence is pathetic. Beyond pathetic, in fact. HBO bosses should’ve spotted that early on. It’s not as if that kind of thing is hard to spot.

  • Doug Hoffman

    BIll Simmons podcast is really good but I think that might be his calling card in sports along with documentary 30 for 30 type of stuff. He is not a great tv personality and I think the Ringer has too many witty-soft spoken- l’m smarter than you writer/personalities. I thought moving to fox would have been a better platform for him.

  • OneOfOne

    rick reilly isn an annoying asshole. so is bill simmons. bye now

  • MrBull

    Don’t worry little Billy Simmons…there is always Fox Sports…

  • CreightonRabs

    Simmons the Sellout is getting exposed as the fraud that he is. Maybe he should go back to Boston and fade into oblivion once and for all.

  • Conquistador17

    Wow! Who should have seen that coming? Said no one… How Bill Simmons ever got to be considered a top-tier talent is beyond me. Of course, he is convinced of his genius so that goes a long way to getting a gig in entertainment.

  • J Dubs

    The fall of Simmons.

    Since Simmons loves hypotheticals, my guess is the Ringer will be bought by Vox at a low, low cost in a year. That, or it will fold like Grantland.

    Sadly, the man who encapsulated the youthful generation Xer is now an out of touch Gen Xer who is fading in relevance with each passing day.

    Let this be a lesson to ESPNers. ESPN can make an above -average writer or anchor a star, as long as they tow the company line and don’t bark about money.

    They rarely overpay for talent and everyone is expendable.

  • P Dizzle

    The reason he is killing his brand is that he has turned into a liberal shill.I’m not saying that all of his fans love Trump, but most of them were not social justice warrior Hillary supporters. The ringer reads like the Huffington Post and Bill spent half his time on Any Given Wednesday shilling for Hillary. He turned his fans off. Many, if not most of them.