ESPN’s Franchise Gets His Own Franchise

March 18, 2011

I wanted to share my favorite new website with you. It doesn’t actually exist yet, but it’s coming soon and it appears the content will be a perfect storm of my interests – namely sports and pop culture. Very few details have been confirmed, including a name and launch date, but ESPN has given its franchise writer, Bill Simmons, his own franchise.

The new site will house Simmons’ ultra popular columns and podcasts, but promises much more – starting with contributions from two of my favorites: pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman and comedian Adam Carolla.  From there, Simmons is hand-picking a full-time staff of 8-12 up-and-coming writers and filling the gaps with more of his well-known cronies who will chime in regularly.

The new site won’t be ESPN-branded, but it will benefit from the company’s financial backing and its marketing machine. With the help of renowned publication designer Walter Bernard, Simmons is bringing his vision to life with a unique graphic style, very magazine-like, which will be easily adapted for viewing via mobile devices, tablets, etc.

Simmons is making a bet on content and creating his own media vehicle. The site will have a built in audience from day one, clearing one hurdle that plagues most start-ups. And if the content is as compelling as I expect it to be, the project should be a huge success.

It remains to be seen how much they will rely on advertising versus paid subscriptions, but based on the target audience, I expect advertisers will quickly jump on board to create a revenue stream. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they could make significant money by asking subscribers to pay for exclusive access. With all the free content available online, I’ve never paid for anything, but this may have me digging into my wallet if they play it right.

What do you think – could this site be a game changer? Is this a smart move by ESPN or will the migration of Simmons away from ESPN.com hurt the main site?