Shortly before Bill Simmons was pushed out of ESPN in May 2015, he seemed unsure what the sports network wanted next out of Grantland, the website it built for him. ESPN officially pulled the plug in October and much of the staff was put out of work.
The shutdown was a blow to Grantland's small but passionate audience, but now they have a new place to go: The Ringer, co-founded by Simmons and four other ex-Grantlanders and edited by one of those guys, Sean Fennessey. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Fennessey said the new site has 43 employees and is working up to 50 thanks to financial support from HBO.
HBO is The Ringer's only investor at present, although the company reportedly heard from several interested partners and investors in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. HBO is also producing a new TV show starring Simmons, "Any Given Wednesday," which debuts later this month.
Fennessey is quick to point out that not everyone involved with Grantland came over to the new site, and stressed that it will do some things differently.
"This isn’t just a website and it isn’t just a podcast network and it isn’t just a show on HBO Go and it isn’t just Bill’s show," Fennessey said. "It’s a multifarious product that we’re trying to make."
The text side of the operation is hosted on Medium, the first big new publication to launch there, but Fennessey declined to go into detail about whether Ev Williams's company is paying his, or vice versa.
On the new podcast, he said the hardest challenge for him day-to-day was "combining having fun with being legitimate." As a new site, The Ringer doesn't yet have much name recognition, but Fennessey hopes to find a balance between short, fun and quick takes and the longer 5,000-word features for which Grantland was best known in the media world.
"There’s a lot of great stuff that gets no audience, and a lot of bad stuff that gets huge audience," he said. "I want to split the atom and get in that middle space."
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.