ESPN has locked up Stephen A. Smith for five more years, reaching a new deal with the sports commentator worth an estimated $8 million per year. The deal will reportedly make him the highest-paid personality on ESPN, passing Get Up! host Mike Greenberg, who earns $6.5 million a year. Smith is one of the most high-profile ESPN stars, appearing on the network almost every day on First Take.
The New York Post first reported back in April that Smith, 52, was in talks with ESPN on a new deal that would rake in as much as $10 million a year. On Sunday, the Post reported that the final deal is worth $8 million a year, with upfront money built in. He still has a year left on his current deal.
Smith appears on ESPN daily as a commentator on First Take with host Molly Qerim and Max Kellerman. He frequently appears on SportsCenter and takes part in regular NBA coverage. He is already hosting SportsCenter on Wednesdays, leading into NBA games.
In October, the Post reported that Smith will leave his ESPN Radio show in 2020 as part of the new deal. However, sources said ESPN is looking to find a way to feature him on its streaming platform ESPN+.
The Bronx-born Smith has been at ESPN since 2005 and has been a polarizing figure thanks to controversial remarks in the past. However, he has become almost indispensable for ESPN, which has struggled to remain relevant as cable subscriptions drop.
ESPN+ has seen significant growth since it launched in April 2018. Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the service now has 3.5 million paid subscribers. The service costs $4.99 a month and will be available in a bundle with Disney+ and Hulu for $12.99 a month beginning on Nov. 12.
ESPN+ already has a handful of original programming and provides users with complete access to the 30 for 30 documentary archive. The platform also includes live MLB, MLS, NHL and English Premier League games, and UFC matches. Peyton Manning also hosts the series Peyton's Places for the platform, while Kobe Bryant has his own NBA show, Details.0comments
According to the Post, ESPN's next order of business is trying to woo former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo from CBS to be an analyst on Monday Night Football. Romo could pass John Madden's record of $8 million, and talks are expected to escalate after the 2019 NFL season wraps.
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