Report: Skip Bayless could return to ESPN when contract expires next year
ESPN recently gave Stephen A. Smith a massive contract extension, and the network may be willing to shell out another huge sum of money to bring back his most worthy on-air adversary.
Skip Bayless could potentially return to ESPN when his contract with FOX Sports expires next year, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports. Bayless and Smith are interested in the idea of reuniting on “First Take,” which is where both gained most of the popularity that has placed them among the highest-paid on-air personalities in the industry. One source told McCarthy that they “both want to make it happen,” but it’s unclear if ESPN will be willing to pay more than FOX to bring Bayless back.
Bayless signed a four-year, $25 million contract with FOX in 2016, and the deal is set to expire in 2020. He has teamed with former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe at FOX Sports 1 for “Undisputed,” which follows the same format as “First Take.” According to McCarthy, the FS1 show averages 150,000 to 180,000 viewers per day in its weekday morning slot. Those numbers are dwarfed by “First Take,” which averages 400,000 to 500,000 viewers per day since it moved from ESPN2 to ESPN.
Smith and Bayless have maintained a close relationship even while working at rival networks, and they are said to believe that their on-air chemistry is unique. If Bayless does return, he would likely replace Max Kellerman and immediately return as Smith’s cohost, or ESPN could try to incorporate all three.
It’s fair to wonder how much ESPN would be willing to pay Bayless when you hear the reported details of Smith’s new extension, but there’s no question pairing Smith and Bayless together again could boost ratings and dominate the market.