Bill Simmons, possibly the most famous figure in sports media, has found a new home. The former ESPN personality has signed a multi-year, multi-platform agreement with HBO, where he’ll host a weekly talk show (starting in 2016) and be involved in a variety of other projects, including podcasts, documentaries, and other shows for the network.
In May, ESPN president John Skipper announced he was not renewing Simmons’s contract. Simmons had worked at ESPN since 2001, but his tenure there was tumultuous, to say the least. He was suspended by the company multiple times, including an extended ban from Twitter for publicly criticizing the ESPN program First Take, a show that nobody likes.
The outspoken Simmons is a perfect fit for HBO, which already features programs hosted by the divisive Bill Maher and the boisterous John Oliver. “It’s no secret that HBO is the single best place for creative people in the entire media landscape,” Simmons said in an HBO press release (pdf).
Simmons’s show will involve both sports discussion and pop culture talk, two things that he seamlessly merged on his ESPN-sponsored site Grantland. It’s still unclear what the longterm fate of Grantland will be without Simmons, but ESPN is committed to keeping it running (Chris Connelly was named interim editor-in-chief shortly after Simmons left).
“We have been fans of Bill Simmons and his work for a very long time,” said Michael Lombardo, HBO’s head of programming, in the press release. “His intelligence, talent and insights are without precedent in the areas he covers.”
Simmons will be free to say the things he wants to say without worrying about annoying his bosses, or getting suspended from using social media. HBO greatly benefits, too, as Simmons is a well-known voice in the sports world and will certainly help the network build up its sports presence.
HBO’s press release makes no mention of writing for the web—one of Simmons’s passions and, arguably, his best asset. But it’s hard to believe that HBO will not find a way for Simmons to continue writing. HBO, backed by parent company Time Warner, could potentially build its own Grantland-esque website, to go along with the show. But for now that’s just speculation.