For those who say "nobody reads anymore" and for those who say "online advertising doesn't work," Bill Simmons' departure from ESPN will be a key talking point for your arguments moving forward.
Simmons was much more than a "sports writer" at ESPN, of course, as he built an unprecedented sports media empire that featured podcasts, TV work and even cartoons. An inspiration to thousands of sports writers (even if many of the curmudgeonly old guard would never admit it) who hoped to not only write about sports but also make a livable wage, Simmons was a sports writing God at the four-letter network. He made over $5 million per year, according to reports. For reference, sports writers at small dailies make around $30,000 per year. So it's easy to see why BS was a divine figure to many of us who type and edit words for a living. We have always been praying for that trickle-down effect.
Simmons and ESPN could not reach a new deal on a contact and he will be a free man at the end of September. This has created something of a cottage industry online in trying to figure out where Simmons will land next.
FOX Sports is the closest thing ESPN has to a rival, even though it is, by any measure, a hammer-and-nail matchup at the moment. Simmons ripped FOX not too long ago after the network launched FOX Sports 1, telling SI's Richard Deitsch, "Fox Sports 1 talked a big game before they launched and deserved a little ribbing. Remember, they were posing for magazine covers, trying to steal ESPN people, bragging about having 'fun' and taking veiled shots at us. Meanwhile, the NBA previews I did with Jalen for Grantland Channel would be their highest-rated show right now. Why are we even talking about them, Deitsch? When they can come up with a show that can out-rate me and Jalen wearing the same clothes for six straight hours on YouTube, get back to me."
FOX clearly wouldn't hold a grudge over something like that as FOX Sports president Erik Shanks told Deitsch just last week that he was obviously interested in a talent like Simmons.
“To the extent that we believe that FOX’s brand is kind of bold and edgy and youthful, to that extent, yeah [Simmons coud be a good fit at FOX],” said Shanks. “I think that there is any of number of things that either Bill or FOX would have to decide on regarding what are the goals here. Whether it’s Bill or someone else, you are going to pay them a certain amount and then you are going to figure out do I have the assets to get the value out of that amount, and that’s after you have figured out whether your brands mesh.
TV personalities—the right ones—can drive viewership and, if they are on you channel your digital properties, it means they are not on someone else’s.”
CBS Sports has invested a ton into sports radio in recent years, but it's digital site - CBSSports.com - leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to written content.
Sports Illustrated could be an option as SI.com rivals ESPN.com in terms of solid digital content. But if Simmons were to land at SI, there's little doubt he would have his own spin-off site in the mold of Peter King's "The MMQB" (it should be noted that King's site launched two years after Simmons' Grantland site).
Simmons' voice was last heard on NBC airwaves as the "final straw" with him and ESPN when he appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show" and dropped some Roger Goodell hatred. NBC currently trots out its ProFootballTalk and ProBasketballTalk on NBCSports.com, but if the network hired Simmons, one would think he'd transform the entire site with himself as the centerpiece.
Yahoo! could be an interesting landing spot considering they could team up the NBA-obsessed Simmons with the best pure NBA info guy in the biz, Adrian Wojnarowski. But one would think Simmons would want to go somewhere with a direct TV contract and that's what makes Turner Sports, owning a gigantic NBA deal, one of the favorites to land him.
Goes out on his own: 4/5