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Will HBO Land Bill Simmons?

Jason Barrett

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While there are lots of potential landing spots for Bill Simmons, there hasn’t been much talk yet about which companies have actually made solid pitches to him. It looks like HBO has entered that camp, though, and it sounds like acquiring Simmons might be a big part of the network’s strategy going forward. Lacey Rose of The Hollywood Reporter wrote a big cover story on HBO that went live online Wednesday, and Simmons was important enough to be mentioned on the cover and make the online title, “HBO’s Real-Life Game of Thrones: The Fight to Stay Rich, on Top and Score Bill Simmons.” Most of the piece is more aimed at those curious about HBO’s changing business model (particularly with their new over-the-top HBO Now service that doesn’t require a cable subscription) and their various programming strategies, but the part on Simmons will definitely interest sports fans:

On June 21, HBO will add a pair of testosterone-fueled new editions — Dwayne Johnson’s sports dramedy Ballers and the Jack Black-Tim Robbins political half-hour The Brink — along with a second installment of the drama juggernaut True Detective. And the network will ramp up from there, with plans for more of the addictive Robert Durst docuseries, a not-yet-announced 1970s porn drama from The Wire’s David Simon and, if all goes as planned, a platform for ESPN cast-off Bill Simmons. While HBO executives are staying mum, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the network is in talks for a major multipart deal with the biggest media personality in sports (more on that later). …

[HBO programming chief Michael] Lombardo won’t rule out other talk shows, too, particularly if the right personality comes along. Though he’s tight-lipped about names on his wish list, he acknowledges the soon-to-be available Jon Stewart would hold appeal. “Trust me,” he says, “I’ve already had a very polite conversation.” 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.

A talk show for Simmons would certainly be an interesting step. At first glance, that seems a little outside the box, but it’s not really that different from the televised podcasts he did at Grantland or the more recent Grantland Basketball Hour on ESPN. That also might fit with Simmons’ apparent desire to have a big TV presence, and it might be free-form enough to work well for him. It might turn into important content for HBO, too; as we’ve discussed before, Simmons has an incredibly loyal fanbase, and that’s largely a young fanbase who might well follow him to HBO, especially in an era where HBO Now is available without a cable subscription. It’s notable as well that HBO is much better than many of its competitors at allowing you to watch programming whenever, through services like HBO Go and HBO Now. That might be a good fit for someone who’s coming in from a column/podcast world where his audience engages with his content when it works for them.

Given Simmons’ involvement with ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries, work on HBO’s sports documentaries also might be a natural fit for him. HBO Sports president Ken Hershman wouldn’t comment on Simmons when AA’s Ben Koo asked about him earlier this month, and HBO’s 2011 decision to close its in-house unit might make it more difficult to find a role on that side for Simmons, but HBO regularly features content from filmmakers like Peter Berg who have worked with Simmons before, and involving Simmons in analyzing outside pitches, deciding which ones to pursue and potentially even working with the filmmakers would only seem logical. It’s notable that Simmons has made several comments in the past about how HBO’s dominance of the documentary space inspired his work with 30 for 30 and convinced him to challenge them. Simmons is strongly opinionated, and his past criticisms of HBO’s recent documentary direction might not go over well with everyone, but he might also be able to bring a fresh perspective and some of what he learned from 30 for 30 to help HBO recapture a larger slice of the sports documentary market.

The biggest question about a potential Simmons to HBO move may be what happens to his written and podcast content. If he has a regular talk show and is involved in documentary production, perhaps that’s enough work for him, and perhaps it means he doesn’t feel the need to crank out columns or podcasts. If he did want to keep doing those, though, there doesn’t seem to be a natural fit for them at HBO, and that might work against them compared to a company like Turner that could use written and podcast content as well as TV content. Something to keep in mind here is that HBO doesn’t always need to have talent work with them and only them, though; it’s possible to imagine a deal where Simmons does work for HBO and someone else, or where he runs his own website on the side with perhaps some venture capital funding. There are lots of questions still to be answered about any potential Simmons-to-HBO deal, but this is certainly an interesting possibility, and it sounds like one that not only might work out for both him and the network, but one that’s also being actively explored by both. We’ll see if anything comes of this, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Credit to Awful Announcing who originally published this article

Sports TV News

Pedro Martinez: ‘Never Imagined’ TV Career

“And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.”

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As the Major League Baseball season comes to a close and preparations for the playoffs begin, MLB Network and TNT analyst Pedro Martinez joined The Press Box podcast to discuss his time as a television analyst.

When asked what he liked about working in television, Martinez didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I think it’s a platform and the opportunity I have to bring to the audience what I know, what I think, what I understand and broadcasting gives me the opportunity to continue to have that communication with the people, the young athletes and fans. At the same time, I’m able to continue to learn and transmit some of the things that I would love to show everybody by playing but my body doesn’t allow me, but my mind does.

“This is a great way to bring the right information to the people, but I take advantage of the platform to communicate with my fanbase, the player’s fanbase, and the voice behind the players and the situations that come up, I can actually teach the audience some of the things that I understand from my point of view.”

A media career was never in the cards for Martinez. At least that’s what he thought during his playing career.

“I swear to god, it’s the only thing I never imagined. I never thought I would like being in front of a camera,” Martinez said. “And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.

“You learn so much just by having access to information, having access to so many other different things. A lot of people would be surprised how much you can dig into and I think for everybody else, if they knew the kind of information we have access to, they’d be intrigued to come do what we do.”

He then said one of the things he would have never picked up on was how many pitchers tip their pitches, but due to all of the information, video, and relationships broadcasters have make that information readily available. He added his work in television has enabled more relationships with baseball players from his home country, the Dominican Republic.

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Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews Get Heated Over Ime Udoka Coverage

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Malika Andrews

On Friday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith continued his stance regarding the public leaking of information surrounding Celtics’ Head Coach Ime Udoka relationship with a team staffer. He also went further by sharing his dismay that Udoka was seemingly the only person punished for the violation of company policy.

“Only he is in violation of the company policy?” Smith asked. “The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation?” 

Before the end of the show, ESPN NBA Today host Malika Andrews called in the program and wanted to address Smith’s comments.

“Stephen A., with all do respect, this is not about pointing the finger. Stop,” Andrews said. “The fact that we are sitting here debating whether somebody else should have been suspended or not, we are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women.”

Smith would replay saying that his intention was not blame anyone outside of the Celtics coach.

“First of all, let me be very clear, I don’t appreciate where you’re going with that, I’m not blaming anybody but Ime Udoka,” Smith stated. “The fact of the matter is, he deserves to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My issue is all of this being publicized.”

Andrews tried to jump back in for further commentary but Smith stopped that and noted he didn’t appreciate being interrupted on “my show”.

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

Andrews did thank Smith for clarifying his stance at the end of the segment. ESPN has removed access to the video from its YouTube channel by making it private.

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Rich Eisen on Tom Brady Joining FOX: ‘I Gotta See It to Believe It’

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow.”

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Is 2023 the year we see Tom Brady in the broadcast booth for FOX? Rich Eisen isn’t so sure.

“I still gotta see it to believe it, I’ll be honest with you, man. I know it’s a great chunk of change and it’s a lot of money. I don’t know,” the NFL Network icon said on the most recent edition of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.

Tom Brady has taken his foot off the gas in 2022 in a more public way than fans are used to. He voluntarily missed eleven days of training camp and has announced that he will not be available to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesdays during the season.

Eisen says if Brady is looking for a less demanding career, broadcasting isn’t the best option.

“It is a lot of work. And I’m not saying Brady’s not up for it, but if he’s been grinding for 23, 24 years, it’s still a grind in its own way.”

FOX signed Brady to a ten-year deal reportedly worth $375 million to start after he retires. He will be in the network’s top broadcast booth and also serve as an ambassador for the network’s coverage of the NFL.

Eisen says there is a much better model for Brady’s media career in his old rival Peyton Manning.

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow,” Eisen said. “Peyton Manning could be making that much money in the booth himself, right? Instead, he’s got his own production company and he’s doing the games, but not all of them, only 10 of them. And he’s doing them from his basement and he’s got the rights to the games!”

He added that Tom Brady “write his own ticket like that” if he chose to do something similar to what Manning has done with Omaha Productions.

Brady has not had much to say about his deal with FOX since the news became public. In June, he told Dan Patrick that he knows his first season in the booth will come with a lot of growing pains.

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