Bomani Jones, the versatile ESPN personality who has gained traction with appearances on shows like “Highly Questionable” and “Around the Horn,” has found a new outlet for his work. But it’s not ESPN. It’s HBO.
HBO has ordered a new, weekly late-night series with Jones at its center that will go into production in New York starting next year. “Game Theory With Bomani Jones” is expected to examine timely issues in the world of sports. Jones is believed to remain under contract to ESPN through the start of next year, and indicated via Twitter Thursday that he would continue doing work with the Disney sports-media giant, particularly his podcast, “The Right Time.” He is expected to continue to contribute to programs like “Around the Horn” and “Debatable.”
The program represents the latest in a series of new weekly efforts many media companies are testing to fill a continued heavy interest in late-night talk and comedy at a time when executives are questioning some of the effectiveness and cost of a traditional Monday through Friday schedule. As more viewers migrate to watching programs at times of their own choosing, some regular backers of late-night offerings have scaled back, with WarnerMedia’s TBS ending Conan O’Brien’s program earlier this year, NBC parting ways with host Lilly Singh and ViacomCBS’ Comedy Central focusing on one regular late-night series, “The Daily Show,” instead of three.
Jones will join an array of weekly late-night efforts at HBO, which backs both John Oliver’s “Late Week Tonight” and Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” as well as “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” a seasonal effort created by comedian and actress Robin Thede. Other networks have also gravitated toward the weekly format, which counts Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” and TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” among their number.
“Bomani is one of the most unique journalists working today,” Nina Rosenstein, HBO’s executive vice president of programming, said in a statement. “He’s someone who gets that sports stories are often about race, politics, economics and gender, and sees a wider view that goes beyond what happens on the field. We are thrilled to be able to work with him and know that ‘Game Theory’ will deliver provocative, insightful and funny stories that you don’t hear too often in popular media.”
HBO subscribers may already be familiar with Jones. He is a contributor to the premium service’s “Back on the Record With Bob Costas” and has appeared in the HBO Sports documentaries “Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke vs. Carolina” and “Runnin’ Rebels.” He has been featured on ESPN for a decade and helped launch the talker “High Noon” with Pablo Torre. The duo tried to lead a show that offered a little more thought and nuance than the typical sports-talk program. Jones has several degrees in economics and Torre graduated from Harvard, building a reputation for himself as a writer at Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine.
“This is, literally, my professional dream, to have a show like this one on HBO,” Jones said in a statement. “We have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done before, and I can’t wait to share our work with the world.”
“Game Theory” is executive produced by Jones, Stuart Miller, Seth Weitberg and Adam McKay, as well as Todd Schulman from Hyperobject Industries.