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ESPN Considering Skip Bayless Return to First Take

“Skip’s replacement, Max Kellerman has helped First Take reach new audience records alongside Smith, but if ESPN believes Bayless can bring the show to another level they will explore that potential.”

Brandon Contes

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Less than one week after ESPN made Stephen A. Smith their highest paid employee with an annual salary of nearly $8 million, the network might still have room in their budget to target another prominent sports talker. 

According to a report by Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, ESPN is interested in reuniting Stephen A. Smith and his ex-First Take partner, Skip Bayless. Stephen A. and Bayless worked together on First Take from 2012 – 2016, before Skip made the move to FOX. The current host of Undisputed with former NFL tight-end Shannon Sharpe on FS1 is set to see his 4-year $25million deal with FOX expire in 2020. 

One source told McCarthy, “They both want to make it happen. I’m just not sure ESPN will hit FOX’s number.” FOX will most likely be interested in retaining Bayless, which could lead to a bidding war between the networks. FOX could also potentially re-sign Bayless before he becomes a free agent.

As one television executive warned McCarthy, “The era of modern sports talent is here. The top 1% will make the big money. The middle will go away. And low paying talent will fill out the grid.” 

While ESPN has shown a willingness to invest large sums of money in talent, it wasn’t long ago when cost cutting strategies resulted in two substantial rounds of layoffs in 2017, eliminating hundreds of employees.

Skip’s replacement, Max Kellerman has helped First Take reach new audience records alongside Smith, but if ESPN believes Bayless can bring the show to another level they will explore that potential. First Take currently averages between 400,000 and 500,000 daily viewers with Stephen A, Kellerman and Molly Qerim Rose on the show. FS1’s Undisputed featuring Skip, Shannon and Jenny Taft regularly garners audience numbers between 150,000 and 180,000 per day.

Stephen A. Smith’s new ESPN contract includes responsibility changes, led by giving up his daily radio show. Max Kellerman has since been publicly considered as a possible successor. It’s possible ESPN could look to utilize all three personalities as full-time contributors to First Take, but it would seem more likely that if Bayless returns, it would be as a replacement for Kellerman, who signed a multi-year extension with ESPN last December.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

After Losing Out On Big Ten Rights, ESPN Turns Focus to NCAA Championships

According to Front Office Sports, ESPN’s contract for 29 NCAA Championships ends in 2024.

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After reportedly losing out on the Big Ten’s television rights, ESPN is reportedly turning to securing the NCAA Championship rights from hitting the open market.

According to Front Office Sports, ESPN’s contract for 29 NCAA Championships ends in 2024. Those 29 championships include everything from Women’s basketball to ice hockey, wrestling, softball, and baseball. The network pays a reported $34 million for the rights to broadcast those championship events.

However, according to a study commissioned by the NCAA reveals that the women’s basketball tournament could be worth anywhere from $81 million to $112 million per year by its lonesome. The NCAA is reportedly considering selling the women’s basketball tournament rights as a standalone product in the next negotiation.

Sources told Front Office Sports ESPN remains interested in striking deals with the Pac-12 and Big 12 media rights, as well as renewing a deal for the College Football Playoff.

The news comes after Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported ESPN declined a final offer from the Big Ten for a portion of the conference’s media rights. The reported deal was seven years and $380 million per year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Announces The Return of Stephen A. Smith to First Take

ESPN announced Smith will be returning to First Take on Monday, August 15th.

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Stephen A. Smith

First Take has been without it’s anchor since the day after the NBA Draft in June. That’s when the ESPN personality took some time off to undergo shoulder surgery and to rehabilitate. However, it appears the wait for his return is almost over.

ESPN announced with a tweet that Smith will be returning to First Take on Monday, August 15th. They also teased a guest appearance from Michael Irvin.

This comes a day after Smith tweeted that the countdown was on for his return and we are one week away from the event.

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Sports TV News

Field Yates Re-Ups With ESPN

After the departure of Matthew Berry to NBC, ESPN has locked down fantasy expert Field Yates with a new contract to remain in Bristol.

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Field Yates

After the departure of Matthew Berry to NBC, ESPN has locked down fantasy expert Field Yates with a new contract to remain in Bristol.

Yates, 35, would have been a valuable target for FanDuel or DraftKings, surmises Andrew Marchand of The New York Post — who first reported the news — due to his large following on Twitter.

Yates, who also works as a host of Fantasy Football Now and NFL Insider for the network, across multiple platforms including ESPN Radio, will continue in those roles in addition to an assumed expansion of fantasy football duties after Berry’s exit.

He has worked for ESPN since 2012.

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