ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Reportedly In Talks for $90 Million Deal Amid His Marketability Surge

Stephen A. Smith, one of ESPN’s standout personalities, is poised to receive a significant salary boost. According to The Wall Street Journal, Smith might pull in $18 million per year, a 50 percent increase from his current $12 million annual salary. This would come out to $90 million for the five years.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 08: Stephen A. Smith attends a playoff basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors at Arena on May 08, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

“The First Take” host only has one year left under his current deal, and reportedly ESPN’s first offer to him is for $18 million per year for five years.

ESPN Thinks Smith’s Worth The Money

As his contract is up for renewal, Smith attributes this sudden pay increase to his marketability. During a discussion on “First Take” about rookie superstar Caitlin Clark’s potential inclusion in the USA Basketball Olympic roster, Smith emphasized the importance of marketability to his colleague Andraya Carter. “I am telling you right now you are going to be underpaid for the rest of what I believe will be an illustrious career unless you get your mind right about that marketing,” Smith said. “It matters.”

The pay raise would make him one of the network’s top earners. His proposed salary even surpasses that of “Monday Night Football” commentators Troy Aikman and Joe Buck.

Smith’s adaptability across multiple platforms — television, streaming, and digital outlets like YouTube — positions him as an invaluable asset as ESPN gears up for a more comprehensive streaming service launch.

“First Take” remains one of ESPN’s most-watched programs and continues to attract a growing audience with a 22-month growth streak.

Social media users eagerly anticipate Smith’s commentary, not only on sports but also on broader topics, granting him a unique position to create viral content. His podcast, “The Stephen A. Smith Show,” has nearly a million subscribers and demonstrates his exceptional viewer engagement.

Smith also excels at generating buzz on social media platforms like Twitter, now called X, making him a formidable “engagement farmer,” according to data from Sprout, The Journal reported.

Smith knows how to capture viewers’ attention, which was evident during the NBA playoffs when ESPN playfully filmed his entrance into the arena during the pregame show, treating him like a star player, a move that captivated viewers and showcased Smith’s ability to steal the spotlight even from major sporting events.

Smith’s two main goals have been noted by WSJ, with the Journal highlighting his 2021 post: “I wake up every morning with 2 thoughts [… No. 1], how do I make my bosses more money? And [No. 2], how do I get some of it?”

As Finurah previously reported, Smith has shared insights into the career setbacks he’s faced. In 2008, he declined a $500,000 contract offer from ESPN, leading to the expiration of his contract. However, Smith got a second chance with ESPN in 2010 and had to demonstrate his worth to the network.

Today, Smith is one of ESPN’s highest-paid personalities. His current five-year contract he signed in 2019 includes an $8 million base salary and a $4 million production contract. His current contract is set to expire in 2025.

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