Bill Simmons: Valuing Trades More Than Friendships

msw6880

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BIll SImmons to leave ESPN, according to ESPN president John Skipper. "We weren't going to get to the terms," said Skipper.
— Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir) May 8, 2015
 

Jnai

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Wow. Wonder what happens to Grantland without his brand.
 

nattysez

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We've debated in other threads where he'll head next. I'm really curious to see his next move. After getting tired of his act as a writer, I've come to enjoy him as an NBA analyst/show host.

My thought now is that he goes the Dan Patrick route where he does deals with a bunch of different networks/sites. Writes once a month for SI, hosts his own podcast, hosts a show on NBATV, appears on TNT, does a production deal with Netflix, etc.

Edit: Good point on Grantland, jnai. If they can find a good editor in chief, maybe nothing changes there.

Second edit: Lots of Twitter speculation that he could go to Yahoo. That would surprise me. Yahoo's future is a little too cloudy for me to think they're a smart play unless they overpay him significantly.
 

Silverdude2167

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Wow, this will be interesting to see what he does next and if he can be as sucessful without ESPN.
 

Jnai

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Vinho Tinto said:
 
Probably ends up in storage with Pages 2 and 3. 
 
Would suck. I have some good friends that write for Grantland.
 

ifmanis5

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Is it possible he takes Grantland with him? Huge news, though. ESPN made him but they kind of broke him, too. He'll be better off without the Bristol Gloves on.
 

nattysez

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Statement from ESPN President John Skipper: I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons contract. We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPNs relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial - he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.

Posted by @jksports on Twitter.
 

Jnai

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ifmanis5 said:
Is it possible he takes Grantland with him? Huge news, though. ESPN made him but they kind of broke him, too. He'll be better off without the Bristol Gloves on.
 
How would he "take Grantland with him"? It's got a huge staff of writers, editors, production, etc.
 

Detts

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The sad thing is that we'll never know why this fell apart as Simmons never makes things that happen all about himself.  
 

Kliq

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So, he is just going to drop everything he is doing right now cold turkey, or I'm assuming his contract runs out and he has to finish up some stuff. I mean, he was on their network last night. I imagine that he is sick of the corporate atmosphere of ESPN, so him going to Turner or Fox doesn't make a lot of sense. He either does his own thing, or lines up with a place like SB Nation.
 

Vinho Tinto

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nattysez said:
Statement from ESPN President John Skipper: I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons contract. We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPNs relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial - he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.

Posted by @jksports on Twitter.
 
Kind of reads like a WWE statement when they release a wrestler.
 

Dehere

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Skipper's statement is characteristically gracious and well done. Can't be lost on anyone that the first two words are "I decided"
 

JimD

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Good for Bill.  I'd love to see him go independent and bring back the no-holes-barred style that made his Digital City presence so refreshing.
 
And, yeah - nice statement there from John Skipper.  You stay classy, ESPN.  I really hope we get the full scoop about Bill vs. Bristol one of these days.
 

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I'm betting he's going to try to do his own thing. He's brought up the fact that he's impressed by people that have been able to "cut out the middle man" a la Louis CK and Mayweather. Whether that's doable for an Internet personality in today's day and age, who knows? His access is certainly likely to suffer.

Maybe some PE guys throw some money at him to set up his own mini-network.
 

JBill

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What does it cost Skipper to be gracious in a parting statement. I get that Simmons is a pain in the ass but he's been there a long time and done a lot of good stuff for them.

Wonder who leaves with Simmons.
 

Dehere

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JBill said:
What does it cost Skipper to be gracious in a parting statement. I get that Simmons is a pain in the ass but he's been there a long time and done a lot of good stuff for them.

Wonder who leaves with Simmons.
 
Oh, costs him nothing of course. Just think it's notable that they clearly wanted to establish that it was ESPN's choice and they wanted to be the ones to get the news out. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Sandomir knew before Simmons.
 

Cellar-Door

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JBill said:
What does it cost Skipper to be gracious in a parting statement. I get that Simmons is a pain in the ass but he's been there a long time and done a lot of good stuff for them.

Wonder who leaves with Simmons.
He could really gut Grantland by only taking a few writers who do a lot of the heavy lifting there.
 

The Social Chair

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ifmanis5 said:
Is it possible he takes Grantland with him? Huge news, though. ESPN made him but they kind of broke him, too. He'll be better off without the Bristol Gloves on.
 
I don't know. A lot of the stuff he got mad about them cutting from his columns were brojokes about gays and women. I'm not sure finally being able to call Skip Bayless a doofus will improve his writing either. ESPN will definitely suffer though...Simmons side projects were the only good thing coming out of there (30for30, Grantland). 
 

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Simmons was always pretty close to Jamie Horowitz, who left ESPN to run the Today show and was fired just weeks into the gig. Lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago Horowitz was named President of Fox Sports Networks.
 
So......
 

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Rembert is already waxing poetic about Simmons on twitter. I presume Keri and Lowe are locks to stay, and Jalen and Jacoby as well. After that, I think it's open season.
 

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The Skipper statement gives me the impression that Simmons is negotiating with a number of networks and ESPN decided to pull out.  I think the natural fit is Turner, which could offer a platform across NBA, entertainment, and news.  He could set up a Grantland-style operation that crosses TBS, TNT, and CNN--kind of following some of the Rachel Nichols and Anthony Bourdain models.  Turner is atomized enough that he could have the editorial freedom he chafed at not having under ESPN.  He could call out practically anyone since Turner is the one major broadcaster that doesn't have to worry about offending the NFL.
 

Kliq

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To reiterate my point, clearly Simmons got upset with ESPN being a very corporate place, and there were numerous testy moments throughout their relationship because of ESPN wanting to cut into what Simmons could do/say, with the RG stuff being the best example. Why would Simmons leave ESPN, only to go to Fox or NBC or Turner, where the atmosphere is likely very similar? If he was only interested in $$$ and his audience, then he would stay at ESPN and anything besides that would be a step-down for him.
 
My best guess is that Simmons wanted out, so he just asked for a ton of money knowing that he wasn't going to get it, and is going to leave to do his own thing.
 

DLew On Roids

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CaptainLaddie said:
Rembert is already waxing poetic about Simmons on twitter. I presume Keri and Lowe are locks to stay, and Jalen and Jacoby as well. After that, I think it's open season.
 
Whatever happens, Rembert needs a platform.  His work on Ferguson and Baltimore has been terrific.
 
Kliq said:
Why would Simmons leave ESPN, only to go to Fox or NBC or Turner, where the atmosphere is likely very similar? If he was only interested in $$$ and his audience, then he would stay at ESPN and anything besides that would be a step-down for him.
ESPN is not known for doing this with talent:
 
 

Jnai

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Lose Remerswaal said:
Maybe Brooksbaseball can sign him and get some color in the site?
 
I get maybe 2-3 emails a year from kids in highschool or college who want to write on our blog.
 
We have no blog.
 

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CaptainLaddie said:
Rembert is already waxing poetic about Simmons on twitter. I presume Keri and Lowe are locks to stay, and Jalen and Jacoby as well. After that, I think it's open season.
I wouldn't be so sure about Lowe, if Simmons goes to a major player Lowe might follow. He and Bill seem to have a good dynamic, and unlike Jalen he doesn't have any connection with ESPN outside Grantland. The real question for all the writers is how well they think Grantland does without Simmons. Not many of them have any crossover with the rest of ESPN.
 

AB in DC

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Not a huge surprise about Simmons.  I hope he gets back into writing again (and not just mailbag).  He used to have such a great voice, but it's almost completely disappeared now that he focused so much of his time on Grantland, podcasts, telecasts, etc.
 

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I'd wish Bill Simmons good luck, but I don't think he needs it. He has the opportunity to do his own thing or negotiate more favorable (editorial) terms with another media conglomerate.
 

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DLew On Roids said:
The Skipper statement gives me the impression that Simmons is negotiating with a number of networks and ESPN decided to pull out.  I think the natural fit is Turner, which could offer a platform across NBA, entertainment, and news.  He could set up a Grantland-style operation that crosses TBS, TNT, and CNN--kind of following some of the Rachel Nichols and Anthony Bourdain models.  Turner is atomized enough that he could have the editorial freedom he chafed at not having under ESPN.  He could call out practically anyone since Turner is the one major broadcaster that doesn't have to worry about offending the NFL.
 
I can't wait for the 25 for 25 on TruTV next year featuring OJ, Carruth, Hernandez (as told by Ron Gronkowski), OJ (again), Ray Lewis, etc. 
 


ESPNs relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial - he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings.
 
AKA we didn't really like him, he didn't really like us, but it was mutually beneficial. 
 

Remagellan

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I wouldn't be so sure about Lowe, if Simmons goes to a major player Lowe might follow. He and Bill seem to have a good dynamic, and unlike Jalen he doesn't have any connection with ESPN outside Grantland. The real question for all the writers is how well they think Grantland does without Simmons. Not many of them have any crossover with the rest of ESPN.
 
 
I disagree.  I think Lowe is better off without Simmons.  There are times when they do pods together that Lowe seems to get frustrated by Simmons injecting his silly entertainment comparisons or his pet theories about the sport when Lowe just wants to have a serious conversation about basketball with someone who knows what he's talking about.  
 

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Remagellan said:
 
 
I disagree.  I think Lowe is better off without Simmons.  There are times when they do pods together that Lowe seems to get frustrated by Simmons injecting his silly entertainment comparisons or his pet theories about the sport when Lowe just wants to have a serious conversation about basketball with someone who knows what he's talking about.  
Simmons has given Lowe a chance to appear on TV on the Grantland Basketball Hour more than once, which has to be a significant boost to ZL's profile.  I wonder if Lowe would follow Simmons if Simmons still was able to offer that exposure to Lowe wherever he ends up.
 

JimD

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The Social Chair said:
 
I don't know. A lot of the stuff he got mad about them cutting from his columns were brojokes about gays and women. I'm not sure finally being able to call Skip Bayless a doofus will improve his writing either. ESPN will definitely suffer though...Simmons side projects were the only good thing coming out of there (30for30, Grantland). 
 
I'm guessing you didn't read Digital City Bill.  He suffered no fools and it was glorious.  Sports media desperately needs someone who's not afraid to call out their shit and I hope Bill has the balls to go that route.
 

JimBoSox9

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I think for the hardcore sports guys like Keri and Lowe, Simmons landing place from a rights and coverage perspective has to be more important than the people element.
 

Mugsy's Jock

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A key potentially appealing aspect about a Turner hook up is that it lands Bill in the same Time Warner famiglia as HBO, where he'd have awesome opportunities to do 30-for-30 style docs as well as scripted series.  Or even features via Warner Bros. (hopefully better than the dopey Jon Hamm film he did at Disney).
 

maufman

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Simmons will make more money as part of a conglomerate than on his own -- someone will pay for the supposed "synergy" of bringing Simmons's audience to their existing content, well above what Simmons's enterprises generate on their own. Maybe he'll leave money on the table and go it alone, but the declining level of effort he's put into his writing over the years makes me think that's not his area of focus.
 
There's a world of difference in terms of corporate culture between Disney and Time Warner. The fact that Simmons wasn't comfortable at ESPN doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't be at Turner.
 
With a couple of notable exceptions, Grantland's writers didn't have anywhere near the leverage that Bill Simmons had when they all signed contracts. I suspect most of them aren't free to leave Grantland and follow Simmons where he goes, at least not right away.
 

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JimD said:
 
I'm guessing you didn't read Digital City Bill.  He suffered no fools and it was glorious.  Sports media desperately needs someone who's not afraid to call out their shit and I hope Bill has the balls to go that route.
 
Amped up return of a Fire Joe Morgan style site? OR does Deadspin have that market cornered right now? 
 

JBill

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Dehere said:
 
Oh, costs him nothing of course. Just think it's notable that they clearly wanted to establish that it was ESPN's choice and they wanted to be the ones to get the news out. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Sandomir knew before Simmons.
That sounds right. Apparently John Walsh, Simmons mentor and protector at ESPN, now retired, didn't get the news before it became public and he spoke to Skipper last night:

http://deadspin.com/john-walsh-had-no-idea-espn-was-splitting-up-with-bill-1703105998?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=social flow