Why Grantland Died
On Friday, ESPN decided to kill Grantland, its sports and pop culture blog. The site was known for some of the most brilliant online sports writing since the sports media giant in launched it in 2011, but it wasn’t making any money.
According to James Miller’s Vanity Fair piece, the site only generated $6 million dollars in revenue a year, which about as much some local TV stations. And with ESPN cutting 4 percent of its workforce due to pressure by Disney to make budget cuts, it makes sense as to why the network decided to kill the site, which was barely profitable.
Although Grantland was well respected by its readers, it didn’t have enough of them to make enough money from advertisers. In August 2014, site reached 4.8 million people, which isn’t a whole lot compared to its competitors. Gawker’s sports blog Deadspin was visited 25 million times in the same month. It’s other competitor, Vox Media’s SB Nation reached 13 million people, according to website analytics by comScore.
Without the readership numbers of its competitors, the only person keeping Grantland alive was it’s founder Bill Simmons. But when Simmons left for HBO in July, he took his four most valued editors with him.
ESPN executive editor John Walsh, who is said to have launched Simmons career, told Deadspin that he is not surprised that Grantland was taken down after Simmons went to HBO.
“I didn’t know it would be now,” Walsh said. “This was Bill’s vision and Bill’s baby and these were Bill’s hires, and he’s brilliant. I’m sad that it’s ending, just like the rest of the people who are concerned with the literate sports word world. It’s a loss.”
What is surprising is that Grantland’s downfall is that mixture of sports and pop culture content is what made ESPN as one of the most profitable media giants. And perhaps, if Simmons were still with ESPN, he may have grown its profits to the size of its competitors.
But since Simmons and ESPN parted ways, it was just a matter of time before the network decided to say goodbye to Simmon’s baby.