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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Fox’s Next Problem: Can It Keep Colin Cowherd From Free Agency?

  • Cowherd’s FS1 contract expires in early 2025.
  • ESPN tried to woo him back a few years ago.
Colin Cowherd
Fox Sports

With Shannon Sharpe out the door, Fox Sports has another huge potential talent problem: Can it retain superstar Colin Cowherd?

The possible free agent’s current deal expires in early 2025, after the conclusion of the NFL season, said sources. 

The 59-year-old Cowherd is happy with his successful eight-year run at FS1, said sources. His long-running show, “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” airs simultaneously on FS1 and Fox Sports Radio (12 noon ET), and he also appears on the “FOX NFL Kickoff” Sunday pregame show. 

He previously co-hosted the original version of “Speak for Yourself” with Jason Whitlock. Cowherd’s also finding success on his own with “The Volume,” the startup sports podcast network.

But ESPN is very interested in a reunion, said sources. The brass in Bristol views Cowherd as the answer to their struggling ratings on ESPN Radio, said sources. 

ESPN recently canceled the “Keyshawn, JWill and Max” morning show, then laid off co-hosts Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman. 

“The monster negotiation coming up for Fox is Colin,” warned one source. “His ratings are at an all-time high. And he causes zero issues — unlike Skip Bayless.”

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Despite the painful recent round of downsizing, ESPN is willing to pay what it takes for the biggest talents. 

Chairman Jimmy Pitaro recently signed an estimated five-year, $85 million deal to bring “The Pat McAfee Show” to ESPN’s weekday programming block.

Stephen A. Smith recently confirmed a Front Office Sports story that he wants to enlist Sharpe for his team of rotating debate partners on “First Take.”

Former FS1 chief Jamie Horowitz recruited Cowherd to FS1 in September 2015 after 10 years at ESPN, where he co-hosted the original “SportsNation” with Michelle Beadle.

Cowherd recently told the New York Post a top ESPN executive wooed him the last time his contract was up. That executive is believed to be ex-ESPN Radio boss Traug Keller.

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With Smith musing about eventually leaving “First Take” for a late-night comedy, entertainment or politics, Cowherd is the kind of heavyweight talent that Pitaro would be willing to pay for.

The once dominant ESPN Radio has been bleeding talent, and ratings, over the last decade, including Cowherd, Dan Le Batard, Mike Golic Sr., Trey Wingo and Will Cain. Le Batard recently called ESPN Radio a “dinosaur,” unable to keep up with changing times.

“Why wouldn’t ESPN go huge for Cowherd? He’d solve the ESPN Radio problem in one stroke,” said another source.

For the first time in its nearly 10-year history, FS1 is in more U.S. homes than ESPN, with 71.38 million homes, according to Nielsen.

Fox and ESPN declined to comment.

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