Nine months after ESPN announced via The New York Times that they would not renew the contract of Bill Simmons, the former ESPN-er announced his return to the medium where he made his initial fame.
Simmons, the former editor in chief of Grantland, will debut a new content site in late spring or early summer called “The Ringer." The site will be the exclusive home to all of Simmons’ written material. A newsletter for the site will debut in mid-March.
Simmons had previously announced hires for “The Ringer” including former Grantlanders such as Sean Fennessey, who will serve as the site’s editor in chief. Among the new hires: Bryan Curtis, who covered sports media and college football at Grantland and two former Grantland editors: Ryan O’Hanlon and Danny Chau. Amanda Dobbins, an editor at New York Magazine’s Vulture blog and Glamour, will oversee the new site’s culture coverage.
ESPN declined comment on the new Simmons venture.
Given there are former Grantland staffers who are free agents as well those currently at ESPN with upcoming contracts expiring, it’s a fair guess that Simmons could add more of his former staff in the upcoming months.
“In the digital world, Simmons will now become ESPN’s Kryptonite,” said James Andew Miller, who has written extensively on Simmons and Grantland for Vanity Fair.
“They knew this was coming; will try and ignore it; won’t say anything bad about it; but they will be following The Ringer metrics closer than they follow their paychecks. This will be a fun battle to watch for years to come. Send lawyers, guns, and money.”
The Ringer is part of larger content umbrella that includes the B.S. Podcast Network as well as a production company for scripted and non-scripted content. Last year Simmons hired former NFL executive producer Eric Weinberger and Geoffrey Chow as lead executives for the Bill Simmons Media Group. Later this year, as part of a multi-platform agreement, Simmons will anchor a weekly television show on HBO and produce content for HBO’s digital platforms. Details on that show were released last week including the hires of former Daily Show staffers.
Asked on Twitter by a reader what lessons he had learned from running Grantland from a business perspective, Simmons responded, "Don't do it with ESPN."