• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

ESPN Extension Could Set Up Shannon Sharpe As Stephen A. Smith’s Successor

  • Sharpe scores a long-term contract extension from ESPN.
  • He could succeed Smith on top-rated ‘First Take.’
Mar 16, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Shannon Sharpe during the second quarter between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Shannon Sharpe is writing one of the great career comebacks in sports TV history.  

On Monday’s edition of First Take, ESPN announced a multiyear contract extension that will keep the 55-year-old Sharpe on the top-rated weekday morning debate show, and extend his commentary to other programs to be announced later. 

“Shannon Sharpe has been an incredible addition to the First Take team, enhancing the show’s dynamic with his engaging presence and insightful commentary,” said David Roberts, ESPN’s head of event and studio production, in a statement​. “Shannon’s chemistry with Stephen A. Smith has elevated our debates and been another key reason First Take is the premier destination for morning sports discussion.”

Today’s announcement came less than a year after Smith recruited the Pro Football Hall of Famer to join him, Molly Qerim, and their rotating team of guest debaters on First Take, and only a year after Skip Bayless pushed Sharpe out the door at Fox Sports 1’s Undisputed. Sharpe and Bayless had worked as TV partners for six years. But Sharpe felt Bayless disrespected him on the air. After several on-air blowups, the three-time Super Bowl champion had enough, taking a buyout from FS1.

On Monday’s show, Sharpe personally thanked Smith for reaching out at a time when he was perceived as damaged goods. “I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me when I was at my lowest. I didn’t know where I was going to go. You called me and said, ‘Bro, everything’s going to be O.K. I got you,’” said Sharpe.

The top-rated First Take recently posted its most-watched May ever, averaging 513,000 viewers. That was up 6% year over year from 2023. It marked the show’s 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year growth.

As I previously reported, Smith is clearly grooming Sharpe—the owner/host of the Club Shay Shay podcast—as his successor if he leaves ESPN. Smith’s ESPN contract expires next year. He’s been crystal clear he wants to be the highest-paid employee at ESPN, with his salary possibly reaching $20 million per year.

If he doesn’t get it, Smith could pursue a new career as Jimmy Kimmel’s possible successor on ABC’s late-night comedy show. He could enter politics as he’s discussed with Fox’s Sean Hannity and elsewhere. Or he could go the independent route with his new podcast/YouTube show and production company.

Monday was the latest chapter in the three-way soap opera between the former TV partners. Don’t forget Bayless previously plucked Smith off the unemployment line to join him on First Take in 2012. Now Smith has done the same thing for Sharpe, Bayless’s former partner turned TV rival. Bayless also pushed for Sharpe’s hiring at FS1 in ’16 when he was at loose ends in the sports media business.

Even if Smith leaves First Take, Sharpe has vowed Bayless’s revamped Undisputed will never beat the show. 

“Y’all not going to be better than me and Stephen A. That’s not going to happen. I promise you, that is not going to happen. Ever. EVER,” Sharpe promised in September.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Teoscar Hernandez Wins $1 Million at Home Run Derby

The Derby is one of the most lucrative skill contests in sports.

Colombian Soccer Federation President Arrested in Copa Madness

The 71-year-old on the FIFA Council was arrested alongside his son.
Apr 29, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson (2) swings through a first inning solo home run against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Home Run Derby Has Become a Big Business Opportunity

New format, narrowing gap with All-Star Game ratings highlight the event’s importance.
Feb 18, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Western Conference center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball during the first half of the 73rd NBA All Star game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

NBC Poised to Grab NBA All-Star Game Rights

The deal would be a major coup for the network.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Formula E is Powering Its Own Future

0:00

Featured Today

Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium.

Without Hard-Line Bans, Pro Athletes and Personnel Will Keep Betting on Sports

Penalties often aren’t stringent or consistent enough to deter banned behavior.
Oct 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goddell speaks during the Don Shula Celebration of Life at Hard Rock Stadium.
July 13, 2024

The NFL Is Confident It Can Overturn the Sunday Ticket Verdict

The league may have good reason to believe it can win.
July 8, 2024

NFLPA Report Cards Have Become the ‘Talk of the Locker Room’ Across..

NFLPA report cards have become the ‘talk of the locker room.’
July 7, 2024

The New College Sports Insiders Are Graphic Designers

Joe Tipton and Hayes Fawcett have become premier news-breakers on social media.
July 11, 2024

Will They or Won’t They? TNT Must Match Bids or Say Goodbye to NBA

A spurned media partner has sued the league before.
July 12, 2024

Copa América Gets Near-Ideal Miami Final After Sometimes Rocky Tournament

Argentina and Colombia face off Sunday evening.
Sponsored

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 10, 2024

‘Where’s truTV?’ March Madness Channel Is Now TNT Sports’ New Star

Warner Bros. Discovery will make its sports emphasis on truTV ‘even more pronounced and consistent.’
July 10, 2024

NBA Agrees to $76 Billion in Media-Rights Deals, but TNT Still Looms

Welcome back, ‘Roundball Rock.’ Farewell, ‘Inside the NBA’?
Stadium with NFL logo at the mid-field line
July 10, 2024

‘Nonsensical’: NFL Blasts Massive Jury Award in Latest Sunday Ticket Case Filings

The league asked for a new trial and called the damages ‘indefensible.’
May 2, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Referee Kenny Bayless (center) separates Manny Pacquiao (left) from Floyd Mayweather during their boxing bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
July 9, 2024

The Most Watched Boxing Matches Ever

The most-watched boxing match was the 2015 bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao which drew 4.6 million PPV buys.