Tonight, Bill Simmons begins a new journey as host of the television program “Any Given Wednesday” on HBO. The show will air at 10pm ET. Charles Barkley will be part of the first segment. Actor and Boston native Ben Affleck will appear in the second segment.
For Simmons, it represents validation that the road he’s traveled over the past year has been worth it. After spending 14 years with ESPN, Simmons learned in the New York Times that his contract wasn’t being renewed by ESPN President John Skipper. The two sides lost trust in one another and the relationship was deemed irreparable by industry insiders.
After leaving ESPN, Simmons was pursued by multiple companies. Ultimately he decided to get more involved in developing his own brand and company and sign on to work for HBO. To stay busy, he launched the Bill Simmons podcast, started the Bill Simmons Media Group, made a cameo on WFAN and Katie Nolan’s “Garbage Time” on FS1, and developed and launched a new website “The Ringer”, which to many feels like Grantland 2.0. Now tonight, he adds his own television component to his media profile.
The interesting challenge going forward for Simmons will be whether or not the appeal he has online, on social, and in podcasting form, can be replicated on television. Bill’s contributions previously on ESPN programs have been solid, but not spectacular. Yet his involvement in previous projects like 30 For 30, Grantland, ESPN.com, and the BS Report podcast have made an impact.
Will this new show and format bring out Simmons’ best? Will the freedom to explore uncomfortable subjects and address them in candid fashion, energize him and result in memorable content moments? Is it simply a matter of HBO being a better fit than ESPN for Bill’s brand of content? And will it be unique and interesting enough to build an audience against some of the top performing programs on television?
Those are the questions being asked inside media circles. Tonight, we get a few of them answered when Simmons premiers “Any Given Wednesday”.