Thursday, April 18, 2024

More Media Backwash: Rolling Stone Loses Huge Libel Suit with UVA, HBO Cancels Bill Simmons After 4 Months


Another bad day in media.

Rolling Stone has lost its libel suit case brought by the University of Virginia. This was the case of the made up rape story. UVA wanted $7.5 million when they filed, but the total could be much, much more when the jury deliberates for damages. We’ve just seen the whole arc of the Gawker case, in which a jury awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million.

The award destroyed Gawker well before a settlement brought the amount down to $31 million– which is still a massive amount of money. Rolling Stone and Wenner Media are now in peril. Earlier this year, Jann Wenner sold 49% of the company to Chinese investors in preparation for this. But Wenner’s nearly 50 year run and his legacy are now at stake because of this crazy episode in which the magazine and its editors were duped. It’s quite awful for everyone.

At the same time, HBO has cancelled Bill Simmons’ sports show after four months. Simmons left ESPN and joined HBO hoping his huge social media following would translate into big ratings. They wanted to make a sports version of John Oliver or Bill Maher’s shows. It just didn’t happen.

Simmons says: “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. 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.’

Simmons will stay with HBO and be deployed in other ways.

For the kind of show HBO wanted, you should catch Michael Kay on the YES Network. He’s managed to mix sports and pop culture, and his show is excellent.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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