The divorce everyone saw coming was officially filed Friday as ESPN President John Skipper announced he wouldn’t renew the contract of the sports fanatic turned columnist, website creator and TV host Bill Simmons.
This occasionally happens when you publicly call out the hands that feed you numerous times, including ESPN’s signature radio stars Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in November, when Simmons called their show “absolute garbage.”
Simmons will not lack suitors, however, as he’s developed a huge following from the popular Grantland site as well as his podcast, “The B.S. Report.” Here are the top potential destinations for the now-former ESPN personality.
His Own Network
“Most expect Simmons to start something on his own,” SportsBusiness Journal’s Dan Kaplan told TheWrap. “My question is, is his brand tied to ESPN and it’s platform?”
What his own network would look like is anybody’s guess, as is whether he’s got the star power to make it work, like Glenn Beck did, for instance, when he left Fox News.
“I think it’s really hard to start your own network,” Bloomberg View Sports Columnist Kavitha Davidson told TheWrap. “He does have a hubris that he can probably take that on, but he’s also kind of priced himself out of having too many options beyond that frankly,” she continued, noting he was reportedly asking ESPN for $6 million.
“That’s not columnist, that’s multi-platform personality money,” she said.
“I’d say he heads to Fox,” blogger-in-chief at NBC Sports’ HardballTalk told TheWrap, “They just hired former ESPN chief Jamie Horowitz
A Fox-Simmons pairing could make sense, as the network could give Simmons the same opportunity to reach across platforms, on TV, radio and digitally. It also can pay within the ballpark of what he’s seeking.
But, like ESPN, Fox isn’t a place known for renegade sports hosts who occasionally go off the reservation.
The brand has Katie Couric for news and plenty of money to spend, so tapping Simmons as its signature sports personality would be a bold move that could result in a traffic jolt as the digital giant continues to try and elevate itself to a live video destination across topics.
The move would erase Simmons’ TV potential, unless Yahoo allowed him the option of contributing elsewhere. It might do so in order to bring in a personality who comes with a rabid fan base in the sports category that will click throughout the year.
Jeff Zucker has revived and evolved CNN from being all news, all the time to one that has a broader focus on news, tech and culture, with original series as a major cornerstone.
The network has shown a willingness to dedicate time to a sports show, as anchor Rachel Nichols hosted “Unguarded” for a short stint before it was a casualty of cancelations and layoffs in October.
At CNN, Simmons could be the go-to when a big sports story breaks, like right now, with the Deflategate frenzy at full speed. He could also have his own column on CNN.com and potentially create his own original series for the network, similar to ESPN’s successful “30 for 30” or HBO’s “Real Sports.”
Simmons’ would also provide the network with a trademark, big-name personality — a must to compete in cable news.
If Shane Smith‘s Friday tweet to try and lure Simmons to Vice says anything, the renegade network would love a a poster-boy sports renegade.
@BillSimmons you are a beautiful baby boy and we love you very much. Come to VICE we make you happy for oncet in our misery lives.
Baby boys aside, Vice would make sense for someone like the popular sports fanatic.
“He’s not one who takes too kindly to corporate structure or censorship — at the same time he wants $6 million dollars. I don’t know how you reconcile those two things,” Davidson said.
With its new TV network coming down the line, Vice could potentially pay Simmons a few million dollars to bring his followers over to TV and digital.