Friday, March 5, 2021

Skip Bayless Remains At FOX Sports Despite ESPN Bid

Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless

ESPN made a full-court press to reunite Skip Bayless with Stephen A. Smith, The NY Post reports.

The duo would have done a daily ESPN+ show together, while being splashed all over ESPN, including weekly spots on the “Monday Night Football” halftime show.

After lengthy negotiations, it culminated in Fox Sports retaining Bayless with a four-year, $32 million contract, according to sources.

As part of the agreement, Bayless, a professional provocateur, continues to do his daily morning sports debate show on FS1’s “Undisputed” with Shannon Sharpe and host Jenny Taft. Bayless and FS1 are in the early planning stage of a potential second daily show for the afternoons. Bayless is expected to be a solo act for that program.

Smith, who makes close to $8 million per year, was a driving force in ESPN’s recruitment of Bayless. The long negotiations went over several months and did not conclude until late fall.

In August, ESPN offered the 69-year-old Bayless a four-year deal in the $30 million range. There is disagreement among sources on ESPN’s best offer, as some officials had it as high as $31 million and others had it as low as $26.5 million. The desire, though, was unquestioned.

The impetus for the move was not to put the “First Take” band back together, but rather to bolster the network’s burgeoning new subscription platform, ESPN+.

Bayless expressed an appreciation for both the leadership at Fox Sports and ESPN. He also lauded his relationship with Sharpe, saying the two get along great, even though it is not the family-like bond that he and Smith have forged. Bayless declined to go too deep into the finer points of the deal.

Fox Sports and ESPN declined comment.

When Bayless left ESPN for Fox Sports five years ago, there was a boilerplate matching clause included in his four-year, $24 million deal. In these negotiations, Fox Sports used that, while adding a $1 million sweetener, to top the ESPN offer.

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