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Old 04-04-2019, 11:00 AM
BLUE LOU BOYLE BLUE LOU BOYLE is offline
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"Oh, the humanity!": Stephen A. poised to become richest talent in ESPN history

By Andrew Marchand
April 3, 2019 | 1:23pm

Quite frankly, Stephen A. Smith is going to be richer.

Smith is in line to become the highest-paid on-air person at ESPN by potentially boosting his salary to $10 million per year, according to people with knowledge of the upcoming negotiations.

The Post spoke with multiple executives and agents to figure out the number that Smith could garner, and the consensus was in the $8 million-to-$10 million range. By comparison, Mike Greenberg is paid $6.5 million to host “Get Up!,” which is the network’s highest publicly known salary. PTI’s Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser are believed to be in Greenberg’s neighborhood.

“SportsCenter”’s Scott Van Pelt, with his rising late-night ratings, is also considered in the nearly indispensable category in Bristol.

Since Smith still has two years remaining on his current contract — which is paying him, according to sources, in the $5 million per range — the two sides have not yet begun serious talks. But ESPN considers Smith among its most valuable on-air performers, and many think he is on top of the mountain.

Even as ESPN tightens its budget for some of its personnel, Smith is expected to receive a record payday. The Post reported last week that ESPN will still prioritize whom it considers must-keep personnel.

Smith, 51, is a polarizing figure, as those in the opinion business tend to be. He is on “First Take,” hosts his own national radio show and appears on countless programs.

In his second go-around at ESPN, Smith has re-established himself as the face of the network. While he has been criticized for rudimentary mistakes — such as saying Mike Scioscia is still managing the Angels — Smith has developed into a star.

He has been caricatured on “Saturday Night Live” and turned into the biggest non-athlete celebrity at ESPN, while still providing tonnage, appearing incessantly on every ESPN platform, not to mention his own social media handles.

Smith, a native of Hollis, Queens, is well-liked by ESPN’s top executives because he is always willing to go on the air, while other top talent have been known to complain if they are overused. In the next round of negotiations, Smith may try to be even better compensated for all the extra spots he does.

As far as potentially leaving ESPN, Smith has aspirations outside of sports. Smith could do a syndicated daily talk show, a game show, or — and this would be more risky — venture into politics. He also may want to be a producer of something to go along with his on-air work.

These days, agents always point to digital players with deep pockets as potential alternatives. A place like DAZN, run by Smith’s former ESPN boss, John Skipper, could try to blow ESPN out of the water to see if Smith would leave for a walled-off, subscription-model world, but one that could possibly be insanely lucrative.

However, it is unclear if that would work, as talk shows on over-the-top services — such as Chelsea Handler’s program on Netflix — have not been big draws.

Smith is well-positioned, with a usual suspect in Fox Sports, where his old contrarian, Skip Bayless, resides, and potential newbies, such as DAZN or Amazon or Apple, as possible landing spots or leverage.

There is an interesting inside twist to the Smith-ESPN negotiations, as Smith will have the president of Endeavor, Mark Shapiro, overseeing his negotiation. Shapiro used to run ESPN’s programming and production, so he has a good idea of how much Smith is worth to the company.

With Shapiro his biggest backer, Smith had his initial rise at ESPN. It was Shapiro who gave Smith his own show in 2005 called “Quite Frankly.”

By 2009, with Shapiro gone, Smith and ESPN could not agree on a contract. Smith would return a short time later, beginning as a radio host and writer for ESPN New York. From there, he built his value back up at ESPN.

Now Smith may be the most prominent on-air person at the network. His current contract is up in June 2021. He is well-positioned for a record raise.
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Old 04-04-2019, 11:09 AM
BFDwager BFDwager is offline
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That's crazy! I can't stand the guy... He's right below Romo on my list!
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Old 04-05-2019, 07:15 PM
Boudreaux Boudreaux is offline
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He's an overrated bum. Espn would be better off without him.
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