Bill Simmons’ brand: Is it big enough for him to be successful without ESPN?

Jonathan Mahler and Richard Sandomir write about the future of Bill Simmons at ESPN. They cite sources as saying Simmons is “furious” about being given a three-week suspension in the wake of his comments about Roger Goodell.

From the story:

If Simmons were to leave ESPN, he could move to another media conglomerate, such as Fox, or to a digital media giant like Yahoo or AOL. (He actually first made his name blogging for AOL for $50 a week.)

It seems more likely that Simmons would want to create a multiplatform business of his own. Hypothetically, anyway, it could include a production studio that makes sports films and documentaries for a distributor like HBO or Netflix; a podcast network; a website; and maybe a YouTube channel.

Simmons will have to weigh the profile, access and guaranteed salary he gets from ESPN against the uncertain promise of building something of his own.

“Ninety-nine out of 100 sportswriters have no entrepreneurial leanings,” said Michael Wilbon, a co-host of “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN. “Could Bill be the exception? I guess. I’m not ruling out the possibility.”

Then there’s this:

Simmons has a faithful fan base, too — including almost 3 million Twitter followers — though it’s difficult to know how much of it comes courtesy of ESPN, which attracts more than 80 million visitors a month to its websitealone. ESPN has proven to be a difficult perch to give up, even for those with a history of conflict with the company. Consider Keith Olbermann, who rejoined ESPN last year for the third time in his broadcasting career.

“The way I look at things is what is the community around Bill Simmons and how big is that community?” said Betsy Morgan, a president and the chief strategy officer of Beck’s TV network and website. “If Bill didn’t live on ESPN, would that community still have a way to find him?”

Indeed, even though Simmons may be ticked, there’s only one ESPN. His aura won’t be nearly the same if he wants to be the king somewhere else.

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