SBD/May 1, 2014/Media

Simmons Profiled By Rolling Stone As Sports-Loving Kid In The Body Of A Media Mogul

Simmons writes fewer sports columns due to TV and movie obligations
ESPN's Bill Simmons still "watches sports with the delight of a kid -- albeit a kid who's a multimedia mogul," according to a profile by Rob Tannenbaum of ROLLING STONE. Simmons is in his second season on "NBA Countdown," where he "plays a slightly exaggerated version of himself: a comedic troublemaker." Simmons describes his role as the "wild card who doesn't give a shit" and added, "I'm part historian, part know-it-all, and part shit-stirrer. I don't hold back -- that's the key." Meanwhile, Simmons, who has 2.6 million Twitter followers, uses the platform "almost exclusively to promote and link to Grantland material." He "doesn't reply to people who think he's a douche, or want to punch his face." He also "writes fewer sports columns than he used to, partly because TV and movies occupy more of his time." Periodically, Simmons and his employer "get annoyed at one another." ESPN President John Skipper once said working with Simmons was "about 99.8 percent great." Simmons countered: "Working with ESPN is 99.1 percent great." Grantland's success, "like Simmons', has resulted from good fortune as well as talent." Simmons: "When we were launching, we didn't realize technology advances would help us so much. ... The iPad has been a godsend -- it's probably the greatest thing that's happened to Grantland. ... We hit at the right time." comScore data shows that Grantland in a recent month "had 4.7 million unique visitors, which represents just a sliver of ESPN's 62 million unique visitors and pales compared to Yahoo Sports' 57.9 million." But the site's balance sheet "isn't the point." A source said that ESPN "likely pays him more than" $5M a year. The company does so "not because of Grantland, but because Simmons is a guy with big ideas, a one-man vertical-integration engine" (ROLLINGSTONE.com, 4/29).

OTHER SIMMONS SNIPPETS: Tannenbaum in a post for DEADSPIN noted he "had a bunch of quotes that didn't fit" into the Simmons profile in Rolling Stone. Simmons, on Magic Johnson's stint with "NBA Countdown," said, "I don't know if I would've come back for a second season of Countdown if I knew Magic wasn't coming back. I was really on the fence -- I made a pro-con list and everything. I genuinely liked him, and I think he liked me. I thought it was funny that I was blamed for him leaving the show. ... The reality is, the people who run ESPN don't like the perception that I have a lot of sway." Tannenbaum noted the NBA's current TV deals with ESPN and TNT run through the '15-16 season, and Fox Sports and NBC are "expected to bid aggressively for subsequent rights." Simmons: "My contract expires next year. If ESPN doesn't have the broadcast rights to the NBA, it will make me re-evaluate what I should do next. I want to work for whoever has the NBA" (DEADSPIN.com, 4/29).
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