After selling The Ringer to Spotify for $250 million, Bill Simmons sure looks like someone who’s won.
In an interview with Vulture, the Ringer founder and CEO (and former ESPN personality) said he’s at a point in his life where he really just wants to win. The big payday from Spotify certainly signifies victory. But he’s not done yet.
Speaking with Nicholas Quah, who runs the Hot Pod podcasting newsletter, Simmons revealed that he has a larger role with Spotify beyond running The Ringer. He’s helping Spotify form its global sports strategy.
“That was one of the tasks that we had this first year, and that’s impossible to figure out when we don’t know when sports are coming back,” said Simmons. “We’ve been able to figure out some stuff, but just not knowing when anything is going to come back is paralyzing.”
Because of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Simmons didn’t elaborate on what the “global” strategy entails. Presumably, that includes producing podcasts covering sports with an international appeal like soccer and tennis. Maybe basketball and golf will be viewed through more of a global lens. Could content involving cricket or rugby be on the docket?
The Ringer’s programming has been able to succeed during the sports shutdown with podcasts such as The Rewatchables, Binge Mode, The Book of Basketball, and Way Down the Hole (a rewatch podcast on The Wire with Van Lathan and Jemele Hill) that indulge nostalgia and interest in sports history. But Simmons acknowledges that looking back will only be appealing for so long.
“I think the audience is going to start to get bored of it,” Simmons said. “Going backwards has a shelf life, and at some point you’re going to need new stuff. It’s fun to react to things. We’ve had so much success on the website, and even more on the podcast side, by reacting and being there when something happens.”
There’s plenty more in Simmons’ conversation with Vulture, including how he pursued Spotify from the start (and if there were any other offers for The Ringer), how he sees the company eventually dominating the podcast space, the value of The Ringer website, producing video podcasts for Spotify, and his current relationship with HBO.