Simmons will appear exclusively on HBO for all TV appearances, the network said Wednesday. 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. 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. 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.”
The deal shows Simmons finding a new home quickly after ESPN cut ties with him in May. The Walt Disney-owned sports media outlet has been scrutinizing its cost structure in the wake of rising fees for sports rights and a decline in subscribers. ESPN recently declined to sign noted sportscaster Keith Olbermann to a new deal and lost out in a bidding war for the services of noted radio personality Colin Cowherd, who is expected to unveil an agreement to join Fox Sports at some time in the near future.
Simmons’ arrival at HBO highlights the network’s rising dependence on unscripted current-affairs programming. A weekly Simmons program would join the ranks of “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” – programs that analyze the events of the week with a decidedly gimlet eye-view. HBO in March unveiled plans to launch a five-day-a-week newscast from Vice Media, the upstart news outlet that covers a range of topics with reportage that makes the viewer feel as if he or she were on the scene. HBO already airs a weekly documentary series from Vice.
The programming garners HBO attention and keeps the network in the pop-culture mix, yet costs significantly less than many of the scripted programs that have made the network a creative force, like “Game of Thrones.”
Simmons would likely straddle the area between HBO’s sports content and the news-based series. His entrepreneurial streak at ESPN led to that network’s “30 for 30” documentary series, where he served as an executive producer; “The B.S. Report,” a podcast; and Grantland, a website focused on both sports and popular culture. Simmons began writing for ESPN.com in 2001, and starting in 2002, was the lead columnist for “ESPN The Magazine”for seven years. He was a writer for ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” between 2002 and 2004.