Bill Simmons Talks Numbers, Reveals How Greedy ESPN Really Is
November 19 / Jake O'Donnell / SportsGrid
Hey guys, not sure if you got the memo, but Bill Simmons no longer works at ESPN and he's 100% cool with that. The only real question left, though, is "why?" Why is Bill Simmons so comfortable with the reality that he's no longer being gainfully employed by the biggest sports media outlet in human history?
On his podcast yesterday, he kinda/sorta gave us an answer, one that goes far beyond his personal beef with Bristol. Simmons intimated that the mothership is sinking -- or at least it thinks it is.
"The revenue stream is what you throw out when you don't want people to know the real reason something happened," he said after Chuck Klosterman floated the idea that Grantland would still exist if Bill was still at the helm. "They spent $125 million on the 'SportsCenter' set in 2012, 2013...and they assumed that advantage was gonna remain the same for five, six, seven years, and they were wrong."
"What they didn't count was that the [paid subscription users] they had were gonna go backwards, and they were gonna start going down," he said, suggesting that ESPN's recent string of cost-cutting measures was the result of poor managerial foresight. "They assumed the 100 million subscribers that they had in 2012, 2013...that was gonna be the case in 2018, and all the bets they made in 2011, 2012, 2013, were based on that number."
He continued dishing dirt on the network's struggle to keep people paying "$75 a year" for access to ESPN's cable programming.
"What happened was they dropped from 100 million to under 92 million [subscribers], so eight million times $75 a year is a lot of money...and now they're like, 'Oh crap, we're not making as much money as we're spending,' but the reality is that they're still making a ton of money, just not quite as much money as they made two years ago."
In essence, Simmons is saying that ESPN didn't have to part ways with their most popular talent (Cowherd, Olbermann, himself), nor did they have to ditch their smartest online publication (Grantland). They just wanted to cover their asses because they bought a $125 million yacht, so they sold their most beloved keepsakes. That sounds like a pretty shitty business to work for, right? No wonder the guy hasn't stopped trashing his former employer since he returned to podcasting.
At some point, ESPN is going to have to come to the realization that a business -- especially a massive television network in a rapidly changing media landscape -- can't keep growing indefinitely. Hopefully they'll recognize the value of quality over quantity, even if it means marginally less income for the suits to roll around in.
The discussion starts at the 27-minute mark, below...
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