Just over a month after rumors surfaced that HBO was pursuing Bill Simmons, the premium cable network and the former ESPN personality announced a multi-year agreement that includes a weekly TV show and a production deal.
As reported by the New York Times‘ John Koblin, Simmons’ new talk show will debut in 2016 and his contract with HBO begins in October. According to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Lacey Rose, the show will not only be available on the regular HBO collection of networks but also on the HBO Go and HBO Now services, featuring stories and guests from both the sports and culture landscapes.
Simmons’ production deal with HBO will include creating video, podcasts and features for the network and its various digital platforms. Additionally, he’ll have a consulting role with HBO Sports working on developing shows and documentaries. (Rose specifically mentioned that Simmons will work with HBO Sports president Ken Hershman on non-boxing-related programming.)
“We have been fans of Bill Simmons and his work for a very long time,” HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo said in an official statement. “His intelligence, talent and insights are without precedent in the areas he covers. We could not be more thrilled for him to bring those talents to HBO and to become a signature voice at the network, spanning the sports and pop culture landscapes.”
Simmons also had a quote in the statement: “It’s no secret that HBO is the single best place for creative people in the entire media landscape. From the moment I started talking to Michael and Richard [Plepler, HBO chairman and CEO], it was hard to imagine being anywhere else.”
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 22, 2015
Financial terms of the agreement were not announced, though it’s been widely reported that Simmons was seeking a $6 million salary in his next contract with ESPN.
Curiously, neither the statement from HBO, nor the reports by Koblin and Rose, mentioned anything about a possible website for Simmons resembling what he created for ESPN in Grantland, the sports and culture website for which he was editor-in-chief.
Does this mean that he’s taking a deep dive into television, focusing on his show, video content and the other production responsibilities he’ll have with HBO, while leaving writing and editing behind? That seems doubtful, considering how Simmons built his career through his written commentary, showing a great eye for talent and development, and providing a rather free-wheeling outlet for longform expression at Grantland. But producing a weekly talk show could certainly keep him busy for the foreseeable future.
It’s worth noting that the HBO deal is exclusively for TV, creating the possibility that he could soon find a new home for his column and a sports-culture vertical. For now, however, perhaps that kind of venture is taking a back seat while Simmons develops the new content his deal calls for at HBO. And maybe Simmons is just ready to take on a new sort of challenge, three months after his very public split with ESPN.