HBO decided to pull the plug on Bill Simmons’ ‘Any Given Wednesday’ talk show yesterday, which was a ‘joint’ decision between Bill and HBO according to a press release. The show will be discontinued after its final episode this upcoming Wednesday, November 9th. The news comes as a complete shock, as it won’t be even given a full season, especially with the fact HBO inked Simmons to a reported 3-year $20 million dollar contract last summer.
“One of the many reasons I joined HBO was to see if we could create a show built around smart conversations for sports fans and pop culture junkies. We loved making that show, but unfortunately it never resonated with audiences like we hoped. And that’s on me,” Simmons said. “But I love being a part of HBO’s family and look forward to innovating with them on other ambitious programming ideas over these next several years – both for the network and for digital. With that said, I want to thank the dedicated staff that worked so diligently with me behind the scenes to make this show every week – we hired so many great and talented people and I loved having them in my life. It’s difficult for me to imagine not working with them anymore.”
Where did it all go wrong? As a big fan of Bill Simmons’ work, I’m actually pretty pissed they pulled the plug so quickly. A few big reasons come to mind as to why they did it though.
1. The Ratings – Ratings for ‘Any Given Wednesday’ have been on a steep decline since starting out with a boom in June. At its best, the show recorded over 300,000 viewers in an episode. Two weeks ago it hit rock bottom, with the awful “hockey” episode that I didn’t even want to tune in to, reaching an alarmingly low 80,000 viewers.
For the Any Given Wednesday tabulators. not good but game 7 did not drive stake through its heart: pic.twitter.com/wQ9yHByeAX
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) November 3, 2016
Simmons tried to make the leap from sports journalist to late night host, which is a totally different ball-game. Yeah, it’s easy to look good when your competing against the likes of Ron Jaworski and Colin Cowherd in the sports world. Then you make the jump with the big dogs like Bill Maher, John Oliver and other top late night hosts, which is a totally different animal. The show still averaged close to 200,000 viewers a week, so I’m not too sure what HBO was expecting ratings wise, but at least the Pope Mike Francesa had some great things to say about him.
Mike reacts to the @BillSimmons HBO show being canceled.
Bill will be foyne.
He’ll send Bill a note.
Mike didn’t watch the show. pic.twitter.com/2WbzFt2bjy
— Funhouse (@RNs_Funhouse) November 5, 2016
2. Guests Made The Show
For a talk show to be successful, viewers need to be tuning in for the host and not the guests appearing that night. I found myself enjoying episodes way more than others because of the guests, which I realized was not a good thing for the success of the show. There we’re some epic conversations in the first season you’re going to what to check out. Whether it was Ricky Williams and Seth Rogen talking about weed or Michael Rapaport going head to head with Bill on ‘Deflategate’.
My personal favorite was a roundtable conversation about hip-hop and sports between Bill, Nas and Kevin Durant. You don’t get all-time greats from those industries together very often and when it happens we need to cherish it. No current show really combines sports, tech and pop-culture intertwined with great guests. This is why I thought HBO would have more leeway with ‘Any Given Wednesday’ because the blueprint of the show was a successful one in my opinion.
3. HBO and Bill Know Their Next Move
Like I referenced before, I’m puzzled as to why the plug was pulled so quickly. This makes me think Simmons and HBO could have another move up their sleeve as to what will be the Innovative Grantland creator’s next venture with the company. Bill has had his ideas shut down before so this isn’t new to him, as someone who constantly pushes the envelope on the digital revolution in sports.
I’m confident this partnership will be a successful one when we look back on Simmons’ career with HBO, but this sure isn’t the start they envisioned. I got faith in you bro, I know people will try to say you’re just a “journalist” and or you’re not made for “television,” but you are not afraid to fail while creating, and that is why I respect you.
P.S. if The Ringer is hiring, I’m available Bill.