Bill Simmons' HBO Show Canceled After 4 Months

THR Bill Simmons_0617 - H 2016
Austin Hargrave

THR Bill Simmons_0617 - H 2016

Bill Simmons' weekly HBO show is ending after a little more than four months on the air.

The pay cable outfit announced Friday, on the eve of wall-to-wall election coverage, that it has canceled his young Any Given Wednesday talk show — though HBO will remain in business with the popular sports personality and continue to be minority investor in his Bill Simmons Media Group.

Simmons accepted responsibility for the show's failure in a statement. "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," he said. "We loved making that show, but unfortunately it never resonated with audiences like we hoped. And that's on me. 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."

The last episode will air on Nov. 9. 
Anyone following ratings for Simmons' show likely isn't surprised by the development. Even in an era of shifted expectations and changing viewing habits, live tune-in for Any Given Wednesday was weak. It averaged around 200,000 viewers and recently bottomed out at a mere 82,000 on Oct. 26. HBO, which now releases ratings on a delayed basis to include the heavy streams from platforms HBO Go and HBO Now, has said that the show pulled a total 2.4 million weekly viewers across platforms. 

As much as this might be a setback for Simmons, it does not end his relationship with HBO — where he quickly landed after being fired from ESPN. The 47-year-old still has two years left on a rich three-year deal with the network that has him earning between $7 million and $9 million annually. Per that deal, Simmons will continue to develop other projects. (Prognosticators may want to turn an eye to over-the-top platform HBO Now. That's where much content is expected to come from Jon Stewart, under a similar deal.)

In the meantime, Simmons still has a thriving podcast network and editorial upstart The Ringer. Both are heirs to Grantland, his Disney-owned web presence that ESPN unceremoniously euthanized after his exit.

For HBO, it's another decisive move on the part of new programming chief Casey Bloys. Any Given Wednesday was set up under the regime of Michael Lombardo. And, like canceling Vinyl before it, Bloys is not being shy about distancing his HBO from that of his predecessor. It also comes as the network has been enjoying big success with other weekly talkers. Bill Maher's Real Time remains a force to be reckoned with 14 seasons in, hitting ratings highs thanks to the 2016 election. And John Oliver's Last Week Tonight has been a massive hit, both critically and with viewers, recently scoring the Emmys' coveted outstanding variety talk series trophy.

“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,” added HBO Sports executive vp Peter Nelson. “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.”