Bill Simmons

Crawling from the wreckage into a brand new car

Bill Simmons has edges. To the point where ESPN’s majordomo, John Skipper, decided to fire him.

This is like the high school principal teaching you a lesson. Proving that no individual is as big as the institution.

You had contempt for the administration at your educational institution, and too often you have contempt for the business institution that employs you.

Bill Simmons started online, penning columns for AOL.

But he got a leg up with ESPN and he knows it’s too late to go independent, that talent rules if you have advisers who know how to ride on the institution’s coattails.

ESPN is challenged. Not only is it losing talent, its payments lie in the balance of cord-cutting. The cable companies will be fine, they’ll just jack up the price for internet. That’s right, when confronted with an insane bill from Time Warner I told them to cancel my television. But that would only save me ten bucks. For that same amount of money not only did I get a ton of channels, including HBO, but they bumped my internet speed up to 200.

But cable channels… They make their money by charging the providers, the cable systems, who hate to pay, because that just makes their service ever more expensive. You cable customers are paying six plus bucks for ESPN every month even if you’re not watching it, and a lot of people aren’t, they don’t want to pay for it, and when we go a la carte, ESPN is in trouble. One can argue sports are in trouble, because in many cases it’s ESPN paying a fortune for rights.

So, the outlook for ESPN does not look bright.

But the outlook for HBO looks amazing!

HBO has no advertising. The public hates ads. And, as a result, HBO’s not beholden to the advertisers, they don’t have to worry if content is too racy or if it gets enough viewers. As long as enough people pay to cover the cost of production, business is good.

Right now most are paying for HBO via their cable provider.

But now you can buy HBO independently.

And what is HBO doing?


Making more shows than ever, increasing the value proposition.

And as a result there’s a virtuous circle, more programming begets more subscribers which begets more word of mouth which begets more subscribers and more money to make more programming.

And by perching itself at the top of the heap, by giving free rein to its talent, HBO gets the pick of the litter. Getting a show on HBO is like getting into Harvard. Something everybody wants but few achieve. You build your resume in movies and TV and if you’re lucky, you get accepted. HBO only wants the best.

Now HBO had a hiccup of its own. With the Chris Albrecht affair. But it turned out there was enough DNA in the outlet to sustain his loss and prosper. So, John Skipper you’re feeling good today, but when you get fired tomorrow…

So, there’s no better place for Bill Simmons to go than HBO.

Those who don’t know how the game is played would tell him to go independent. To have all the control, to make all the money. But the truth is in today’s cluttered world you need help. Nate Silver and Ezra Klein tried this, with Fiverthirtyeight and Vox respectively. Most of their audience did not travel. And it’s hard to gain new customers, there’s no overflow, like there is with HBO, from other shows on the network.

So Bill Simmons comes out smelling like a rose.

Illustrating that top-tier talent always wins. That anybody who claims “You’ll never work in this town again.” is living in a different era. Teaching talent a lesson is passe, especially when it’s superstar talent. Superstar talent is the grease upon which these outlets prosper.

If you’re not Bill Simmons, or Bill Maher….

You’re not exactly screwed, but you’re in trouble.

There’s only room for one in today’s world. That’s what the great unwashed wannabes don’t understand. There’s very little room at the top. And those who sustain have been at it for a long time.

And what keeps them there is not playing ball, but being themselves.

In a phony world where politicians pander and executives get along we need people to believe in. It’s the essence of Bills Simmons and Maher, as well as Donald Trump. You may not like them, but large groups of people do. Because they embody their frustration, their anger at having to conform.

Especially millennials. Who’ve been told to get along to get ahead. They need heroes.

Furthermore, HBO knows the new rules. That free is fine when you’re building.

You can stream John Oliver on YouTube. You only erect fences when people want to tear down the walls. There’s plenty of money if you’re willing to wait.

Everybody else wants it now.

But Bill Simmons is testimony to the proposition that life is long, and hard, and even if it looks like you’re losing today, you might be winning in the end.

So, have a personality. Speak your truth. It’ll alienate some, but it will bond others ever more closer to you.

And know that it’s very hard to build a star, especially one who sustains. And that he who gets to the mountaintop gets to write his own ticket.

Also, the world works best when you use someone else’s vehicle to get ahead. Better than having your own car in college is having a best friend with one. You don’t have have the headaches of insurance, repair and gas.

Bill Simmons doesn’t have to worry about promotion and distribution, he’s just got to do his act.

That’s what all talent desires, the ability to just do its act.

Dave Edmunds “Crawling From The Wreckage”

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