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Skipper: Bill Simmons Departure a Business Decision

ESPN's recent decision to part with longtime network personality and writer Bill Simmons was based on a business decision and not any personal conflicts, ESPN network president John Skipper told reporters Tuesday after the network’s upfront event.

Skipper said the decision not to renew Simmons's contract was all “business, not personal,” but said  the decision did not come down to money.

Simmons, who lauched sports and entertainment website Grantland in 2011,  has been one of ESPN’s most popular personalities during his 15-year tenure, but has had several runs-in with ESPN executives during that time.

“He was at ESPN for 15 years and he did a fabulous job for us," Skipper said. "He re-invented at one point the way you do sports writing and became the most read sports writer in the history of the medium,” he said.

Skipper also weighed in on ESPN’s lawsuit last month against Verizon over the telco’s controversial Custom TV “skinny” bundle package, saying that the network is not against new technology but existing carriage agreements have to be renegotiated before any changes can be made.

“We’re in a dramatic time of technological change and clearly the way people consume video devices on different on different kinds of subscription packages is a dramatic transition,” he said. “We don’t resist the change; we do have contracts and it means that if you want to do things that are different you need to discuss it with us and we’ll have a conversation as we did with Sling TV."

Skipper also said the network’s decision to simulcast its NFL Wild Card game on ABC as well as the move of its longtime awards show The ESPY to the broadcast network was based in part on getting more exposure for the events on a bigger platform. “The Wild Card game is to get a bigger audience,” he said. “We’re going to become more opportunistic with ABC.”

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.