HBO Cancels Sportswriter Bill Simmons’s ‘Any Given Wednesday’

(Bloomberg) -- HBO canceled sportswriter Bill Simmons’s “Any Given Wednesday” less than five months after its debut because the weekly talk show failed to pull in enough viewers.

The show, hosted by Simmons, blended sports and pop culture, with high-profile guests like actor Ben Affleck, rapper Vince Staples and basketball star Kevin Durant. Simmons indirectly acknowledged struggles in recent weeks, often remarking on his podcast about how no one would watch his show live because of competition from major sporting events like the World Series.

Simmons, one of the most popular sportswriters in the U.S., joined Time Warner Inc.’s premium cable network in 2015 to host a TV show and embark on a new media venture. HBO said it plans to work with Simmons on other media projects in the future, and that he will continue to operate his new website, The Ringer, as well as his podcast network.

“HBO is committed to Bill Simmons, and we are excited to bring his unique vision to bear on an array of new programming initiatives under the HBO Sports banner in 2017,” Peter Nelson, executive vice president of HBO Sports, said in a statement. “Bill is an award-winning executive producer in the documentary arena, and we will work closely with him in developing new and engaging content for our subscribers.”

HBO had prevailed over several other suitors after Simmons left ESPN, where he turned a popular column into a mini media empire spanning documentaries, podcasts and a website called Grantland. Simmons has attempted to recreate that business on his own, with a little help from HBO. The Ringer is operated by the Bill Simmons Media Group, as is his podcast.

HBO’s top priority was the TV show. The network home to “Game of Thrones” and “Silicon Valley” took a chance on Simmons, a former TV writer who had little experience hosting his own show. They hoped his podcast was a sign he would be a good host.

The show received poor ratings from the start, and viewership got worse with time, according to the website Sports TV Ratings. Fewer than 200,000 people watched live some weeks, even with more popular movies as a lead-in.

“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,” Simmons said in a statement. “That’s on me.”