The sports media is hyper-interested in Bill Simmons and by extension, his HBO show “Any Given Wednesday.” I’ve ridden that train by regularly tweeting average viewership for the premiere Wednesday telecasts:
Deadpool lead-in fuels Any Given Wednesday to best premiere telecast # since July 6: pic.twitter.com/zhLGc6jZSL
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) October 6, 2016
How much should be made of those numbers? I don’t know because I don’t have access to a lot of other HBO data that would inform my opinion. But based on limited info my guess is those numbers aren’t very important or indicative of how the show is doing from HBO’s perspective.
Today The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel wrote a piece titled “Will Bill Simmons Salvage His HBO Show?” It’s a fairly even-handed piece. Glasspiegel writes:
While I wouldn’t say it’s a probability that Any Given Wednesday does not make it to 2017, imminent cancellation is not out of the realm of possibility. How much improvement he needs to show and will exhibit, and how long of a rope HBO will give him, is a difficult thing to determine because both sides are notoriously impervious to leaks. If television viewership does not improve soon, at least part of his future will presumably be determined by how cooperative he is with creative suggestions from above.
It’s not just TV critics who focus on the (subjective) quality of TV shows, many sports media folks do that too. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I do wonder if critically thinking about show quality hampers critical thinking about outcomes.
I am unburdened by any of that that but am set back by a lack of information.
Glasspiegel notes the cross-platform information that had Simmons early in his run averaging 2.4 million viewers per week or about half of Bill Maher’s 4.4 million weekly cross-platform totals at the time.
To the degree that is a trend that is still holding, neither Simmons nor HBO should sweat the numbers for the premiere telecasts (or the critical commentary about the show). If that trend is still holding I’d give “Any Given Wednesday” a 100% chance of getting a second season.
I think of it this way: if Simmons’ premiere telecast was doing anywhere near 50% of Bill Maher’s premiere telecasts (1.695 million last Friday) nobody would be talking trash about the ratings for “Any Given Wednesday.” So if it winds up that on a cross-platform basis Simmons does anywhere near 50% of Maher, is HBO — which is in the subscription business not the advertising business — bothered by those numbers? I doubt it.
Now, whether “Any Given Wednesday” is still doing around 1/2 of Maher’s cross-platform numbers is anyone’s guess. HBO didn’t bother to respond to Glasspiegel who writes for a site that has very decent traffic, but HBO sometimes has a very old-school mentality when it comes to public relations i.e. if you write for an old-school publication they are far more likely to respond to you than if they deem you “one of those bloggers.” So, I wouldn’t necessarily take no recent numbers from HBO as an indictment of Simmons’ cross-platform numbers.
Another factor I don’t have any info on: what else, if anything, is Simmons doing for HBO? Much is made about how much HBO is paying Simmons and the calculations are all tied to the TV show. But if, for example, Simmons is working on revamping HBO’s sports-documentary enterprise, there’s value in that to be considered.
A high probability that I’m wrong here, but if I had to guess what is keeping Bill Simmons up at night it’s not “Any Given Wednesday” it’s “The Ringer.”
A plea to HBO: please release the latest cross-platform numbers.