Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons’ Any Given Wednesday debuted last week to some mixed reviews… ok, it was mostly bad reviews.  But because it was on HBO, there was lots of swearing, though! Lots and lots of swearing!  Especially from Ben Affleck!

Simmons’ strong-suit has never been television, but the HBO show at least allows him to loosen up and be himself, much more than the Grantland Basketball Hour or the square-peg-in-round-hole that was his run on ESPN NBA Countdown.  And given the nebulous mission of the show with its sports and pop culture emphasis, it’s going to take some time to develop and gain a rhythm.

What’s also important at this stage of the game is how many people are actually finding Any Given Wednesday and making it a part of their weekly routine.  And in a somewhat encouraging sign for the show, viewership actually increased from Week 1 to Week 2.  And by a good distance – 39%.

This is noteworthy because most shows naturally see a dip for their second program after the hype/buzz/interest in their premiere episode.  Just take a look at FS1’s Cowherd-Whitlock embrace of debate, which lost half of its audience from its debut episode to its second and third episodes.

So in that aspect, it’s good news for Simmons that viewership went up for the program.  Perhaps it was a better lead-in, perhaps it was all the publicity that came with the debut episode and Affleck’s propensity for saying Bobby Knight’s favorite word.  Who knows.  But at least there’s a silver lining for Any Given Wednesday as it works out the kinks and figures out what its true identity really is in the HBO lineup and Simmons portfolio.

However, putting Simmons’ viewership numbers in comparison to HBO’s other heavyweight talk shows and it’s clear he has some major ground to make up to get into the same league as John Oliver and Bill Maher.  Both Maher and Oliver‘s shows reportedly draw over 4 million viewers.

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