Time Warner's (TWX) HBO network canceled Bill Simmons' weekly talk show, Any Given Wednesday, late last week, shining a spotlight on its programming in the wake of the AT&T (T) sale announcement.

The last half-hour episode of the politics, culture and sports program will air this Wednesday.

Simmons previously worked for Disney's (DIS) ESPN, where he was a popular columnist, podcaster and editor-in-chief of the Grantland website until the network fired him in 2015. HBO scooped Simmons up last summer for a multiyear contract.

Dropping Any Given Wednesday normally would not ring warning bells, but Time Warner is under intense scrutiny lately after the New York company said Oct. 22 that it had agreed to a sale to Dallas telecom AT&T for a whopping $85.4 billion.

Cancelling the HBO show so soon after its debut in June could raise questions about HBO's ability to take a popular sports personality like Simmons and create a slam-dunk program. Clearly, this time around, HBO's efforts to utilize a star such as Simmons failed: Any Given Wednesday pulled in only about 82,000 live viewers for its Oct. 26 broadcast, according to Sports TV Ratings.

The show's ratings peaked on June 29 with 362,000 live viewers, Sports TV Ratings reported. Its final show this week will be only the 17th aired.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Ben Mogil said via email that the cancellation of "just one show" does little to impact Time Warner's deal with AT&T. Mogil added there are "lots of puts and takes" in a transaction of that size.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, though, seems enamored with Time Warner's content offerings including HBO. "Premium content always wins," Stephenson said in a company statement on the merger last month. "It has been true on the big screen, the TV screen, and now it's proving true on the mobile screen."

"We'll have the world's best premium content with the networks to deliver it to every screen," Stephenson said of a combined AT&T-Time Warner.

Time Warner's "winning" premium content is integral to the AT&T deal as the companies look to compete with media conglomerates such as Comcast (CMCSA) . Comcast purchased a 51% stake in NBCUniversal from General Electric (GE) in 2011 and bought the rest in 2013, combining NBC's studio, network and other assets with Comcast's cable TV systems.

Although Stephenson feels that premium content "always wins," HBO wasn't able to succeed with the Simmons program despite having a big-name sports personality on the ticket. Simmons said in a statement that Any Given Wednesday "never resonated with audiences like we hoped."

Simmons and HBO will have the chance to redeem themselves in the near future, however. Simmons said he's working with HBO "on other ambitious programming ideas over these next several years -- both for the network and for digital."

For its part, HBO said that Any Given Wednesday's cancellation was "mutually agreed upon," but the network will continue to support Simmons in his future endeavors, such as his newly created Bill Simmons Media Group and The Ringer sports website.

The network also will collaborate with Simmons "on an array of new programming initiatives under the HBO Sports banner in 2017." Time Warner hopes these new projects will garner more viewers than Any Given Wednesday and reinforce confidence in HBO's media strategy.

Still, the cancellation could be just a hiccup for Time Warner, which topped analysts' earnings expectations of $1.36 per share for the third quarter last week when it reported it had earned $1.87 a share, up 46% year over year. The company also raised its full-year 2016 earnings forecast, adjusted for some charges, to $5.45 to $5.55 a share from $5.35 to $5.45 a share.

The $7.17 billion in revenue for the quarter was a 9% jump from $6.56 billion in 2015.

AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.

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