Stephen A. Smith’s Future Is the Latest Big Question in Sports Broadcasting

His current contract expires next year

Stephen A. Smith
Stephen A. Smith looks on during the game between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks during Game Four of the 2024 NBA Finals.
Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

We’re witnessing a transformative moment in the way that we watch sports — and, for that matter, for the way that we watch people talk about sports. The landscape of broadcast networks and streaming services seems to be in flux right now. JJ Redick just made the jump from analyst and podcaster to Lakers head coach, and Charles Barkley might be bringing his commentary days to a close.

The latest sign of a shifting industry has to do with Stephen A. Smith, whose contract with ESPN runs through next year. What might be enough to keep him at ESPN — or where Smith might go if he doesn’t like what the network is offering — is the subject of an article by Puck’s John Ourand.

Ourand outlined the reasons why ESPN would like to continue their relationship with Smith, including the ways in which Smith has become “the face of the network over the past several years,” a host/network bond Ourand compared to the one between Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. Unfortunately for both parties, Ourand also reports that the two aren’t quite on the same page financially. ESPN has offered Smith $18 million per year; Smith and his representatives would reportedly like something in the neighborhood of $25 million.

As Ourand points out in his analysis of the situation, Smith would likely not lack suitors if he opted to turn down ESPN’s offer. Earlier this year, Smith showed that he was willing to change broadcast partners, albeit on a smaller scale, when he moved his podcast from Audacy to iHeartMedia. In the coming weeks, we’ll see if that foreshadows bigger changes to come.

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