Bill Simmons is coming back to podcasting. The creator of ESPN’s Grantland announced on Twitter Monday that he’ll be returning to the airwaves this fall — Oct. 1, to be exact. Needless to say, that first episode should be a doozy. Simmons has never shied away from voicing his opinions, but his breakup with Disney-owned ESPN came in rather spectacular fashion.
Calling NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell a liar netted him a three-week suspension from the network. That led to Simmons’s eventual departure from the company — including his beloved Grantland. Though Simmons’s contract with HBO begins in October, it’s unclear where his new podcast will appear. But listeners could be the big winners here.
“The mechanics of podcast listening — you have to seek out and actively subscribe — favor those, like Simmons, who are better at building devoted audiences than entertaining large fleeting ones,” Kevin Draper wrote for Deadspin in a piece titled “How to Employ Bill Simmons” in May. “This means most ‘B.S. Report’ listeners are frequent ones, and thus understand and appreciate the in-jokes and references. He books quality guests and lets them talk at length about interesting things, and while sometimes he forces them to nod along in fake agreement at some asinine theory, Simmons also asks good questions and makes them feel comfortable enough to open up and share stories they otherwise would not have. It works well.”
Simmons used his podcasting success as a springboard to building a brand. In addition to his writing, Simmons created Grantland’s podcast network, which became one of the site’s most visible products. (Full disclosure: this writer has appeared on that network.) There’s no reason that couldn’t work somewhere else.
One of the most interesting questions is what a Bill Simmons podcast would sound like in 2015. No longer is he the “regular guy from Boston” as a media personality, operating under the radar with a healthy subset of brainy fans who really know what’s cool. He created Grantland for that.
Depending on how much Simmons is willing to talk about ESPN, his new podcast could be an incredible insight into the world of sports media.
Grantland’s unique position along the sports world/pop culture spectrum landed him a lot of people who know a lot about a lot of things in his proverbial Rolodex. The guest list alone could make the show an instant hit.
But, there’s also another, more cynical angle.
If Simmons regularly opens up and talks about his time at ESPN, this new show could be fascinating, particularly for people who weren’t fans before. The sports media landscape has changed dramatically since Grantland’s 2011 launch, and who would be better to comment about it than a guy who played ball with the big boys? In an era in which one-man vanity verticals are now all the rage, Bill was an early adopter.