SBD/June 2, 2011/Media

ESPN-Simmons Relationship Likely To Be Tested By Grantland

Simmons trying to find balance between Grantland, writing his column

ESPN's relationship with columnist Bill Simmons "might be described as dysfunctionally codependent," and given that dynamic, it is "hard not to wonder how the relationship" will play out at Grantland.com, according to Jonathan Mahler of the N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE. Simmons' new website, expected to launch next week, is "owned by ESPN, and the parent company has already made its presence known, choosing the site’s name, which Simmons is less than enthusiastic about." Simmons noted that he is worried Grantland, named after late sportswriter Grantland Rice, "sounds pretentious." But he said ESPN execs "loved it," adding, "They've been so supportive of the site. You’ve got to pick your battles." Simmons "sounded as if he was having some regrets about Grantland." He said, "It hasn’t been as much fun as I had thought. I’m not sure I would do it again." Mahler notes too much of Simmons' time was "being spent in the office, dealing with administrative tasks, which was encroaching on his column." Simmons said, "My biggest concern about the site is that I don’t want the column to just be one of the things I’m doing." Much has been made of the "well-known, literary writers Simmons has already attracted to Grantland, but as a business proposition, the site is basically an attempt to leverage Simmons’s take on sports and, really, life into something much bigger than himself." Data from ComScore shows that his "Sports Guy" column on ESPN "attracted 740,000 unique visitors in April, making him probably the most widely read sportswriter in America today." In addition, his "The B.S. Report" podcasts are "downloaded an average of 600,000 times each." Still, Simmons "has deliberately taken a different approach to his career, trying to expand his audience without becoming overexposed." He "limits his radio and television appearances, and has turned down offers to host his own late-night talk show." Simmons: "What happens at ESPN is that if you’re doing well, they’ll keep asking for more, and if you don’t fight for yourself and say no, they’ll just bleed you" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 6/5 issue).

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