Names and faces: Bill Simmons, Tim Howard

23 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bill Simmons heads to HBO.

Bill Simmons’s move to HBO, which was announced Wednesday after he had spent nearly three months in limbo, takes him to a premium network that can give him even more freedom to speak his mind than ESPN did and a chance to develop a strong TV presence.Bill Simmons will take up with HBO after his ouster from ESPN, in a move that will have the revered sportswriter host a weekly talk show on the Time Warner pay-cable service starting in 2016.”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,” Lombardo said in a statement.

The pact between the two, which becomes effective in October, sets up what HBO called “a comprehensive partnership on a variety of platforms between the network and Simmons.” The talk show, expected to feature guests from the worlds of sports and culture, will also appear on HBO Go, the company’s on-demand service for subscribers, and HBO Now, its stand-alone broadband service. According to a press release, Simmons will be occupied with producing content for cable and digital audiences with a show and video podcasts and features. At ESPN, Simmons’s strengths were as a prolific columnist and podcaster, as an editor and as an executive producer of the “30 for 30” documentary series. Simmons is also expected to produce content for various HBO venues, including podcasts, and will consult with HBO Sports in the development of shows and documentary films with Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports.

He will not be involved in the company’s boxing coverage. “We have been fans of Bill Simmons and his work for a very long time,” said Michael Lombardo, HBO’s president of programming, in a prepared statement. “His intelligence, talent and insights are without precedent in the areas he covers. Simmons had a not-so-dandy stint as an analyst on ESPN’s N.B.A. pregame show, “NBA Countdown,” and was the host of “The Grantland Basketball Hour,” which was more “Wayne’s World” than big-time programming. While it looks like Simmons won’t be writing — the talent that brought him from freelance contributor to major voice at ESPN — he won’t be abandoning his roots completely. Walsh, the former executive editor of ESPN who was associated closely with Simmons, said that Simmons was trying to fit his television work into a lot of other endeavors. “What Bill was attracted to was launching Grantland,” Walsh said, “and if you’re launching Grantland and writing a column and doing podcasts, I don’t know how much more time is left in the day.” Simmons, who was said to be earning $5 million annually from ESPN, has long been considered one of the most original voices in sports journalism and a magnet for younger fans.

David Hill, a former chairman of Fox Sports, said in an email that Simmons stood out from “an ever-crowded field of nonentities (the perennial talking head).” Hill added, “Mr. The new deal will let Simmons take his column to another media outlet, and there was no clarity Wednesday about whether HBO or another part of Time Warner would build a new Grantland-type website for him. At HBO, almost anything goes, and for someone who likes to pop off, Simmons could not have found a more welcoming place to say what he pleases about anyone in the sports world.

He received plenty of freedom at ESPN, too, but in the end, he learned that he could not harshly criticize Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, without being suspended for three weeks last year. And presumably, HBO’s deal with NFL Films to produce the “Hard Knocks” training camp series will not deter its newest star from saying whatever he wants.

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