Bill Simmons/The Ringer

There’s no buzz.

How long until HBO cancels Bill Simmons? It’s gonna happen, hell, the new regime scrapped the second season of “Vinyl” after the show had already been picked up. You see the ratings sucked. And TV lives by statistics, they trump friends every time. Sure, it’s great to be in business with Mick Jagger and Marty Scorsese, but not when you’re losing money, or could put something much more profitable in their place. HBO is all about premium content, a cut above, that you can’t get anywhere else, and as soon as something substandard airs, they cancel it.

Bill Simmons spoke truth to power, he angered his ESPN bosses. But leaving was like graduating from high school, once he was gone no one cared, there was nothing to rebel against, just another overaged teenager wondering what to do next.

HBO rescued him.

But is there a need for a sports talk show on the outlet? One based on the personality of someone most find edgy and offensive? Once again, it’s like taking someone from nowheresville and putting them in the big leagues, a high school thespian in Hollywood, does anybody really care?

Only if you’re great out of the box.

And Simmons was mediocre, a deer in the headlights. If they give him enough rope he’ll get better, he might find himself, but this is not Bryant Gumbel transferring from the “Today” show. Or Bill Maher moving “Politically Incorrect” from ABC. Simmons had essentially no television experience, and like David Lee Roth trying to replace Howard Stern, he failed. Broadcasting is a skill, and so far Simmons doesn’t have it.

And then there was the endless repetition of the arrogant promos, wherein Simmons looked like nothing so much as what he is, an overeducated boy/man bitching from the sidelines about a game he was unable to participate in. Why couldn’t they make more than one clip? Why couldn’t they have had a teaser campaign online? Released video on YouTube in advance?

We either need the show or the personality must be transcendent. Or, the story can be so good that it hooks us. Simmons laid goose eggs on every level. Proving that the institution is bigger than the individual, that’s the story of the past few years. Ezra Klein left the “Washington Post” claiming he was gonna reinvent news for the millennial generation. No, the millennials all go to social media sites, Vox has no traction whatsoever.

Don’t step out on your own, in a cluttered world of endless messages he who already has traction is king. Media stars can jump from one platform to another, but starting a new one from scratch… That’d be like Kevin Durant forgoing the Warriors to play in Dubuque on a team without a television contract. He’d claim you could see the games online, but could you tear yourself away from cat videos and porn and the rest of the cornucopia of short form material that overloads us online?

Which brings us to the Ringer. Simmons’ replacement for Grantland. What if they launched a site and no one went there? I have never ever been sent a link from the Ringer. I’ve never ever seen it mentioned in anything I’ve read. Sure, it’s new, but today you’ve got to start with a splash. And do we really need one more Bro site with snarky comment mixed in with overlong analyses of that which we don’t care that much about to begin with?

Simmons will walk away with his money and his identity. He does an informative podcast, he shines there. And there’s room for his antics on other sports platforms.

But he cannot build it himself.

It’s kind of like Trent Reznor leaving Interscope to reinvent the wheel. No, he went back to the major label, the majors have relationships, they do stuff better than you, they can cover all the bases.

ESPN is challenged by cord-cutting. But it built its rep in a pre-internet era and not only do its bona fides survive, it has assets and traction. You harness those to get ahead, as opposed to trailblazing from zero. It’d be one thing if Simmons’ HBO show was innovative, but you can get the same crap elsewhere easily. As for the internet, it’s a haven of opinions. We want news, facts, and stars. Simmons is a star in print, as for the rest of the people on his site? Kind of like, there’s Nate Silver and twenty no-names I don’t want to read the work of.

This is not about Bill Simmons.

This is about television. HBO is competing with the revamped Starz, run by its old majordomo, Chris Albrecht, that service now eclipses Showtime in subscribers. And Netflix and Amazon and Hulu. Being artist-friendly is not enough, you’ve got to deliver great consistently. Used to be HBO was the only playground, now it’s not. They haven’t got time to let you develop, like a deejay in Des Moines honing his chops before he gets to L.A.

This is about the internet. It’s much less rogue and up for grabs than you think it is. It’s about established players fighting for market share. Facebook is going into video, what was that site that was gonna compete with YouTube by paying the creators more? It’s already history. Only established players can compete with YouTube.

And only established players can compete in news. Bezos injects cash into the WaPo which is run by Marty Baron of “Spotlight” fame and Bill Simmons thinks he can compete with that?

And that’s what the Ringer is competing with. It’s an attention economy. And if I peruse the Ringer I’ve got less time for the authorities.

So, you want a name at an established place.

Otherwise you’re just pissing in the wind.

This is the world we’re living in.

P.S. The name of that video site was Vessel. It was run by Jason Kilar, the former CEO of Hulu. Hulu is still standing, it’s triumphing. Kilar and Vessel are in the rearview mirror. Don’t get caught up in the cult of personality. NBC just needs someone to host the “Tonight Show,” not Jimmy Fallon. And if ratings suck, they blow you out, despite you having a contract, just ask Conan O’Brien. Does anybody watch his show anymore?

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