Bill Simmons: Valuing Trades More Than Friendships

Jnai

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But why do either of those guys need to be live? They just need to have a stable publication platform that's available when they want it to be. No one in their demographic watches anything live other than sports.
 

Cellar-Door

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Jnai said:
But why do either of those guys need to be live? They just need to have a stable publication platform that's available when they want it to be. No one in their demographic watches anything live other than sports.
Maybe not live, but both, especially Simmons are going to be doing time sensitive stuff likely. Netflix has never really had anything based around quick turnaround times as far as I know. Unless Simmons is going to stop talking about games the day before or after Netflix doesn't seem like a good fit. Other than 30 for 30 nothing he does really fits that well into the netflix model. It's possible Netflix might set him up in a more Hulu style quick turnaround,  but they haven't shown any desire or ability to do that so far.
 

Stevie1der

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This would be a bit of an about face from Simmons, wouldn't it? While at ESPN, he constantly resisted attempts to put his content under the insider label because he didn't think people should have to pay to access it.
 

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I don't think that was so much a philosophical position as a practical one, though.  He wanted as broad a platform as possible to maximize his reach.  Putting the Insider label on his work would have kept him inside the ESPN stable.  Now that he has the reach he wanted, he turns to generating the revenue for himself. 
 
I agree that the online subscription model based around personal brands hasn't worked, but I don't think that means that it can't work.  Andrew Sullivan didn't have the market that one needs to get the subscription count to make it worthwhile, and while Glenn Beck is probably making money, he's mostly disappeared from the conversation.  However, I suspect that's more because he doesn't have a platform with even a toe dipped in the mainstream.  His appeal was always to cranks and fanaticists.  
 
Stewart and Simmons are a natural pairing because their audiences overlap and they would capture a lot of the emerging mainstream.  I think they'd do better with a third voice grounded in pop culture--Joel McHale, maybe?  Community is over and he's been doing The Soup for over 10 years.
 

Stevie1der

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Those are good points.  I suppose that if the price point is right, and the content warrants it, they may be able to carve out a niche initially with cable cutters.
 

minischwab

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Not directly related, but worth putting in here with the discussion of a pay site:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/opinion/zeynep-tufekci-mark-zuckerberg-let-me-pay-for-facebook.html
 
Mr. Zuckerman points out that Facebook makes about 20 cents per user per month in profit. This is a pitiful sum, especially since the average user spends an impressive 20 hours on Facebook every month, according to the company.
 
If that's true, then is there ANY way Simmons could generate enough revenue from a free site to make it worth it?  My guess is no, he's not generating enough traffic on his own no matter how good his staff is.  I still think it makes the most sense for Simmons to sign a TV deal and then do a separate web venture with someone like VICE.  
 

Darnell's Son

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He presumably has money to survive for a few years. He could start a free site with the intention of selling it once it becomes established. He may be too old to feel like dealing with that though.
 
DLew On Roids said:
I agree that the online subscription model based around personal brands hasn't worked, but I don't think that means that it can't work.  Andrew Sullivan didn't have the market that one needs to get the subscription count to make it worthwhile, and while Glenn Beck is probably making money, he's mostly disappeared from the conversation.  However, I suspect that's more because he doesn't have a platform with even a toe dipped in the mainstream.  His appeal was always to cranks and fanaticists.  
 
FWIW, Sullivan stopped the Daily Dish because he was burned out from blogging virtually nonstop for years and years, not because he thought his revenue numbers were discouraging - he always seemed upbeat about how well his subscription model was doing. I don't think that's a path Simmons would or could follow, though, so the point is probably irrelevant.
 

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minischwab said:
Not directly related, but worth putting in here with the discussion of a pay site:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/opinion/zeynep-tufekci-mark-zuckerberg-let-me-pay-for-facebook.html
 
Mr. Zuckerman points out that Facebook makes about 20 cents per user per month in profit. This is a pitiful sum, especially since the average user spends an impressive 20 hours on Facebook every month, according to the company.
 
If that's true, then is there ANY way Simmons could generate enough revenue from a free site to make it worth it?  My guess is no, he's not generating enough traffic on his own no matter how good his staff is.  I still think it makes the most sense for Simmons to sign a TV deal and then do a separate web venture with someone like VICE.  
 
OT, but not sure why 20 cents/user in profit per month is pitiful, when a) the cost for providing the service is probably .0005 cents/user/month, and b) there are 1.44B active users (Wikipedia).  Sounds like a bonanza to me.
 

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DLew On Roids said:
 I think they'd do better with a third voice grounded in pop culture--Joel McHale, maybe?  Community is over and he's been doing The Soup for over 10 years.
 
 
ConigliarosPotential said:
 
FWIW, Sullivan stopped the Daily Dish because he was burned out from blogging virtually nonstop for years and years, not because he thought his revenue numbers were discouraging - he always seemed upbeat about how well his subscription model was doing. I don't think that's a path Simmons would or could follow, though, so the point is probably irrelevant.
 
The Daily Fin would be perfect for a third voice
 

DLew On Roids

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ConigliarosPotential said:
 
FWIW, Sullivan stopped the Daily Dish because he was burned out from blogging virtually nonstop for years and years, not because he thought his revenue numbers were discouraging - he always seemed upbeat about how well his subscription model was doing. I don't think that's a path Simmons would or could follow, though, so the point is probably irrelevant.
That's what Sullivan said, anyway. His perception and reality haven't always been in alignment. He's still making excuses for giving credence to The Bell Curve.
 

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Why the hell would jon stewart leave a position in which he s at the height of his powers in order to do the same thing more or less but in an unproven distribution channel thats unlikely to succeed?
 
DLew On Roids said:
That's what Sullivan said, anyway. His perception and reality haven't always been in alignment. He's still making excuses for giving credence to The Bell Curve.
 
He published the stats on his blog all the time - e.g., here's his recap of where his subscription model stood at the end of its first year:
 
http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/12/31/the-dish-subscription-surge/
 
I don't think he made all of those numbers up. (Do you?)
 
Sullivan is an interesting comparison if Simmons does go down the paywall route. Sullivan had a relatively small (five figures) number of loyal subscribers who he attracted and retained through the quality, breadth and volume of his content. Simmons has a much larger number of not-as-loyal followers, but Grantland works because the quality, breadth and volume of its content are all pretty high. Simmons himself, though, is all about depth of content (i.e., the 5,000-word column and the hour-long podcast), not lots of posts on a wide range of subjects. Very few people will pay for Simmons' own articles; I think the only way this could conceivably work is for him to combine with enough other high-quality content creators to create a new Grantland-type entity with video as well as written content, and even that isn't likely to convert many of his followers to subscribers. Particularly on the video/audio side, I think his best bet might be to piggyback onto existing distribution mechanism and aim to take a cut of its revenue, rather than create a new distribution mechanism from scratch; maybe he could look to do a new live or nearly-live show three nights a week on Netflix or Amazon or even HBO, and create a parallel website for written content which is open to everyone who already subscribes to Netflix/Amazon/HBO. Are Simmons and Stewart big enough headline acts to make that model work? Quite possibly, but I think they'll still need a huge supporting cast to draw enough new subscribers for this to make sense to Netflix/Amazon/HBO.
 

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A reason Stewart or Simmons might do that is that Stewart might (and Simmons clearly has) been constrained by their corporate overlords.  Who knows what biting pieces Stewart might have wanted to do about Big Cable, or major consumer goods companies who effectively paid his salary?
 

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mauf

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Total shit article. TV ratings are the least trusted statistical metric ever, even by people in the TV business. That article can get fucked.
Actually, I thought the data was decent, but the point it proves is the opposite of the point the author wanted to make. Stewart's popularity has declined from its peak, but he still regularly draws a large audience of the young, affluent viewers whom advertisers covet most, despite being stuck on a shitty platform. The competing news and late-night talk shows mentioned by the author might draw more viewers, but a lot of them have one foot in the grave; there's a reason no one is trying to replicate the Fox News business model.

Stewart is an 800-pound gorilla at Comedy Central and is paid like a loss leader. He isn't walking away from that to do a similar program on another platform.
 

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fivethirtyeight is actually pretty terrible on anything but politics.  GIGO with almost no critical thought as to why a given input is useful or what problems it might have.  It's basically just a "Isn't this bit of math neat," blog.
 

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Yep, especially considering Silver started in baseball, their sports pieces are often really embarrassing. 
 

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The point is that no matter his ratings, if Stewart wants to do something in which he does funny takes on the news, there's no better place than where he is now. I understand if he's leaving in order to have his creative juices replenished or do something like directing, but going to the web to do the same thing more or less doesn't make sense.
 

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Nick Kaufman said:
The point is that no matter his ratings, if Stewart wants to do something in which he does funny takes on the news, there's no better place than where he is now. I understand if he's leaving in order to have his creative juices replenished or do something like directing, but going to the web to do the same thing more or less doesn't make sense.
 
Unless doing it on the internet affords him the opportunity to do it on his own schedule and not on one dictated by a network (wasn't more time for family cited as one of his reasons for leaving?).  Not to mention full editorial control rather than having some things shut down by corporate network overlords.  His audience will find him wherever he goes, so it's not as though he's beholden to Comedy Central (or another network) to be heard.  And it might well be that he's made more than enough money to get by in his time with CC, and isn't concerned about the paycheck if he's being fulfilled by the project.
 

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Red(s)HawksFan said:
 
Unless doing it on the internet affords him the opportunity to do it on his own schedule and not on one dictated by a network (wasn't more time for family cited as one of his reasons for leaving?).  Not to mention full editorial control rather than having some things shut down by corporate network overlords.  His audience will find him wherever he goes, so it's not as though he's beholden to Comedy Central (or another network) to be heard.  And it might well be that he's made more than enough money to get by in his time with CC, and isn't concerned about the paycheck if he's being fulfilled by the project.
I would be surprised if Jon Stewart had any interference from "corporate network overlords," save perhaps for stories about Viacom itself. Do you know something I don't?
 

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Not sure why people assume Stewart would be doing anything similar to his Daily Show gig if this was a legit venture.Stewart and Simmons both have expanded into production, and that might be where Stewart is interested in going in his post Daily Show career.
 

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maufman said:
I would be surprised if Jon Stewart had any interference from "corporate network overlords," save perhaps for stories about Viacom itself. Do you know something I don't?
I don't think there are any topics that are verboten, but he certainly can't go after something like the car industry with the intensity that Oliver can now.  A four minute segment about vehicle recalls and the advertisers begrudgingly take their lumps, but I'm sure they'd pull their ads if he did a 15 minute unrelenting expose. 
 
Don't have specifics, but there have been several articles that made the distinction between HBO and basic cable and their respective news shows.
 

minischwab

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Simmons in talks with HBO:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hbos-real-life-game-thrones-802764?utm_source=twitter
 
Considerably more likely is Simmons, whom the network is said to have made a big play for after his unceremonious booting from the more corporate ESPN. Such a move would be straight out of the HBO playbook, which famously provided a creative reprieve for former ABC flameout Bill Maher many years earlier. Though Simmons is said to have several suitors, insiders say con­versations at HBO have focused on a TV show — something Simmons is believed to want — along with heavy digital extensions that make the prolific personality tailor-made for the HBO Now era.
 

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minischwab said:
Simmons in talks with HBO:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hbos-real-life-game-thrones-802764?utm_source=twitter
 
Considerably more likely is Simmons, whom the network is said to have made a big play for after his unceremonious booting from the more corporate ESPN. Such a move would be straight out of the HBO playbook, which famously provided a creative reprieve for former ABC flameout Bill Maher many years earlier. Though Simmons is said to have several suitors, insiders say con­versations at HBO have focused on a TV show — something Simmons is believed to want — along with heavy digital extensions that make the prolific personality tailor-made for the HBO Now era.
I could see this happening. At this point though all I miss from Simmons is the podcast. I won't be going out of my way all that much to digest much else he does in the future.
 

Mooch

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Simmons couldn't carry a TV show on his own. I wonder if he'd try to recruit Carolla.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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I think HBO makes too much sense. Not sure how we all missed it.
 
 
Really? Why does this make "too much sense"? Because of the three things that Simmons has done: writing, podcasting and being on TV. The latter is probably the thing he is least good at. (I'm not including his producing here because I don't think that HBO would bring Simmons in to just produce shows, that seems kind of dumb).  Would he do something like the John Oliver Show only with sports? Because that has been tried numerous times and all have failed (Norm MacDonald being the best one). 
 
I don't think that Simmons has the chops to host a weekly TV show. 
 
I think you're forgetting the thing that he's done best, which is organize larger-scale "clearing houses" for sports entertainment. Being editor-in-chief of Grantland and putting together that stable of writers. Heading up 30 for 30 and putting together that group of film-makers. I'm not sure I'd want to watch him do a weekly sitdown show, but I'd be down for a Morgan Spurlock kind of show.
 

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Sounds great. I'm rooting for this to happen and while I agree that Simmons has never been great on TV I'll be optimistic until we hear details of the potential show. I can't see him holding down a weekly hour the way Maher or Oliver can but as host/curator of a monthly show with other contributors, yeah, why not?

HBO is so profitable that they don't really need Simmons content to make sense on a P&L. They can overpay for what would hopefully be critically acclaimed TV content and HBO Go exclusive digital content. And outside of boxing they have no league relationships to worry about. Makes a ton of sense to me.
 

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John Marzano Olympic Hero said:
 
 
Really? Why does this make "too much sense"? Because of the three things that Simmons has done: writing, podcasting and being on TV. The latter is probably the thing he is least good at. (I'm not including his producing here because I don't think that HBO would bring Simmons in to just produce shows, that seems kind of dumb).  Would he do something like the John Oliver Show only with sports? Because that has been tried numerous times and all have failed (Norm MacDonald being the best one). 
 
I don't think that Simmons has the chops to host a weekly TV show. 
 
I know he doesn't, but I could see him being the creative force behind a show that becomes successful (whatever form it may take). I'm one of Bill's bigger bashers on here, but he is fairly bright and he certainly is an identifier of talent as well as having some good idea frameworks.
 

ifmanis5

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I think he'd be fine as a host and moderator. Most of those shows involve either a guest or a panel and some taped pieces so the amount of sheer heavy lifting he would have to do alone wouldn't be astronomical. Also HBO is in the Time Warner family which means he could do dome TBS/TNT work for the NBA.
 

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I know he doesn't, but I could see him being the creative force behind a show that becomes successful (whatever form it may take).
 
 
I agree that the things that he does from the back-end (producer, editor for Grantland) are pretty good. But if HBO wants to sign Bill Simmons, would you agree it's because they want to bring a new set of eyeballs to the channel (the early to mid-20 something guys that are Simmons' main audience)? So if you told those guys that Simmons is going to have a show on HBO, but he's not going to star in it, he's just going to produce it, what do you think that the reaction would be? It would probably be pretty tepid, at best. 
 
HBO can get practically anyone to produce a show for them (Apatow, Scorsese) and they already have a bunch of really great sports documentaries. Why do they need Bill Simmons' executive producing/video content production? They really don't. 
 
If you say that Bill Simmons is going to star in a new show that's going to be like John Oliver's show, only it's going to be about sports, that would bring in more of his audience, the audience that HBO wants, no? And I just don't think that Simmons can handle a show like that. Maybe he can with a lot of help and maybe he can grow into a show like that, but HBO doesn't seem like a place where a person of Simmons' stature (I think that HBO either gives shows to relative unknowns or people who have a mainstream track record, and Simmons falls in between those two poles) goes to learn the ropes. John Oliver was on the Daily Show for almost ten years. Bill Maher was on ABC for a bunch of years. 
 
I think you're forgetting the thing that he's done best, which is organize larger-scale "clearing houses" for sports entertainment. Being editor-in-chief of Grantland and putting together that stable of writers. Heading up 30 for 30 and putting together that group of film-makers.
 
 
Okay. Why would HBO want to do a Grantland rip off and why would Simmons want to do that all over again? Maybe as a companion platform for HBOGo, but I think that most people aren't watching HBOGo on their laptops (I could be completely wrong about that BTW). 
 

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The show would need to be much better than the Grantland TV shows which varied from dull (basketball show) to stupid (the topics he made Morris & Connelly talk about). A less serious version of Real Sports (a mix of taped segments, doc shorts, and live panels) could work. 
 
HBO is the smart play for him. He would become irrelevant on Fox Sports 1 or NBCSN.   
 

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They could also throw a series of documentaries his way. He's pretty connected now and could be a legitimate producer.
 

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I could see him doing well in an Oliver style show around sports.  While many have failed with the format, doing it weekly would help a lot for there to be enough to talk about and being able to be unfiltered is when Simmons was at his best anyway.  Everyone always yearns for Digital City Simmons and this would probably be the best venue for him to go back to that style, although it is fair to wonder whether he still has that in him.
 
Either way, he could pull in a large stable of guests and focus on various topics -- almost consolidate his podcast conversations with his video production instincts to try to make an entertaining hour.  I can't say I'd make it a point to watch, which isn't a good sign, but I can understand the logic.
 

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Artie is a sad story. I get bummed out thinking about him as its most likely only a matter of time before he's dead. Dude went from main cast member, to whack packer, to fired. The end for him on Stern was not funny. Nor fun.

But because I'm generally an asshole I would absolutely tune in if Bill had him on an uncensored HBO show just for the potential train wreck. Not for the Romo rhymes with....tired jokes. He still has his moments of brilliance thought as evidenced by his recent appearance on Gilbert Gottfrieds podcast.

Coincidentally my interest in Simmons has been very similar to Stern. Was a rabid listener/reader, slowly tapered, then nose dive to indifference. I don't know if it's because they've changed (Stern) or because they really haven't (Simmons). I think I'm still the same immature jackass with the same inmature tastes.
 

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ifmanis5 said:
I think he'd be fine as a host and moderator. Most of those shows involve either a guest or a panel and some taped pieces so the amount of sheer heavy lifting he would have to do alone wouldn't be astronomical. Also HBO is in the Time Warner family which means he could do dome TBS/TNT work for the NBA.
 
HBO...the Sesh...could work...
 
 

Hagios

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I think it would be a great deal on both sides. One thing that I don't get in this age of cord cutting is why streaming services like Netflix and HBO don't have the equivalent of Sportcenter and CNN News and perhaps a few shows with shouting talking heads (either sports or politics). 
 

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Hagios said:
I think it would be a great deal on both sides. One thing that I don't get in this age of cord cutting is why streaming services like Netflix and HBO don't have the equivalent of Sportcenter and CNN News and perhaps a few shows with shouting talking heads (either sports or politics). 
Branding and quality, particularly for HBO. It's hard to do those formats as constituted 'better' than ESPN and Fox News; also difficult to come up with a truely audiance-grabbing spin on them.

The subscription brands are built on appointment television, not inertia-dependent filler. They're not desperate to 'fill hours' the way an ad-driven network is, so the incremental add of that kind of daily isn't worth the cost to them.