Rewind back to 2009 and HBO had a monopoly on high quality sports documentary content. It wasn't just the prevailing opinion at the time but also a motivating realization for 30 for 30 founder, Bill Simmons.
From the NYT:
“I was watching an old HBO Sports documentary and got mad that HBO had this monopoly... I thought, we’re a sports network and they’re not, but it’s always, oh, they have a new documentary.”
Passionately — and hyperbolically — Simmons added, “I want nothing more than to destroy them.”
From The Hartford Courant:
"It really bothered me that HBO had cornered the sports documentary in the minds of the average sports fan," said Bill Simmons, ESPN's Page 2 columnist and executive producer for the "30 for 30" project.
"Why is it so special when HBO releases one, but yet we're putting out documentaries all the time? Some of them were really good, I thought, and they just kind of fell through the cracks and just didn't make sense to me," Simons said.
"The big appeal, something that nobody's seen before, is that each one's going to be different. That's the rut I think HBO's gotten into. Well, there's a lot of ruts they've gotten in."
"Same narrator, it's done the same way. It's very predictable. I thought the Ted Williams one was really good, but why do it? It's 2009, the guy's been dead for six years, there's a huge book about him -- really, that's your choice? I just think they're dropping the ball a little bit, and we're taking the ball and dunking it, and we're going to blow them away about this."
Researching those quotes, it dawns on me just why so many folks in the sports doc space I've talked to who are not partnered with ESPN haven't been shy in expressing some level of disdain towards Simmons and ESPN. That said, Simmons more or less called his shot as 30 For 30 and ESPN have knocked off HBO, who seems to be throttling down their original sports content output.