ESPN Makes Bill Simmons The Biggest Free Agent In Media

It's not too shocking that ESPN has not elected to renew the contract of Bill Simmons, the personality who runs Grantland.com while hosting a popular podcast and appearing on all sorts of other programming.

Of course, presenting it as ESPN making the call rather than Simmons knowing how much leverage he has and asking for more than the Sports Leader wanted to deliver is probably disingenuous.

It has been very clear that "The Sports Guy" has bristled at his corporate overlords for a long time.

People point to his suspension over remarks he made about Roger Goodell, but Simmons has been bumping into his bosses for years over issues including his not being allowed to comment on other personalities employed by the network.

ESPN and Simmons were good for each other for a while, but the personality no longer needs the backing of the network and he's likely to make a huge deal wherever he goes.

That could mean setting up shop at a rival like Fox Sports or it could mean going to an major Internet service like Yahoo (which has been loading up on major personalities).

It's also possible that Simmons gets financial backing and goes it on his own, perhaps with a loose affiliation with one of the aforementioned possibilities.

ESPN made a mistake

Very few personalities mean anything on the Internet and in many cases the platform -- be it ESPN or anything else can make and break stars. Simmons, however, is different.

He's the Howard Stern of the Internet and like the radio host where he goes people will follow.

Simmons also has the ability -- as Stern did -- to market how muzzled and censored he was in his previous home -- and push his ability to say whatever he wants wherever he ends up next.

The Sports Guy is not just another columnist, he's a brand with a devoted fan base that's not likely to care where Simmons sets up show. They will almost certainly follow him and that will be a blow to ESPN.

ESPN has a lot of hosts but it has very few distinct personalities.

That's pretty much destined to happen at a company that has grown to size of The Sports Leader.

In its early days ESPN developed voice -- people like Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, and Craig Kilborn -- but now it mostly has bland knockoffs of those.

Simmons was a rare thing -- an outside star who needed a bigger platform. ESPN never seemed quite comfortable with the relationship, but now that's over, they are almost certain to regret it,

Let the bidding war begin.