ESPN tried everything they could to reunite Skip Bayless with Stephen A. Smith, according to a report from the New York Post.
The four-letter network worked to pull Bayless back on their roster and away from his current responsibilities at FOX Sports. After lengthy negotiations, the top sports media commentator was retained with a four-year, $32 million contract, according to sources.
Bayless and Smith would have done a daily for ESPN+ and had plans of including the duo into the network’s NFL coverage throughout the week.
As part of the agreement, Bayless, will continue work on FS1’s “Undisputed” with Shannon Sharpe and host Jenny Taft. According to sources at FOX, Bayless is expected to start work on a second daily show coming later this year.
Bayless, 69, is scheduled to make a similar amount to Smith with both over $8 million each.
In August, ESPN offered Bayless a contract that rivaled the one being offered by FOX Sports with a reportedly $30 million price tag over four years. According to sources familiar with the negotiations, ESPN wouldn’t match FOX’s offer with the extra $2 million being the breaking point.
The “First Take” platform with Bayless and Smith would not have been reconstructed, but rather a push for ESPN’s digital subscription service to bolster viewership.
“Stephen A. Smith is even more of a brother to me than my real brother,” Bayless told The Post. “I love the man, as you know, on and off the air. Since I left ‘First Take’ for ‘Undisputed’ back in June of 2016, Stephen A. and I have remained in close touch.”
“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 to the Post.