Whenever Stephen A. Smith is on another podcast or you see him making a guest appearance somewhere, he knows how much of an influence that he is because of who he is and who he represents.
Smith was a guest on the most recent episode of The Pivot Podcast with Channing Crowder, Fred Taylor, and Ryan Clark and told the trio that what makes him one of the most, if not the most influential person in sports media is the trust that ESPN shows in him.
“The biggest thing that makes me influential is the trust that they have in me. When I’m on a podcast or a news network, they don’t worry about me the way they would worry about other folks because they know I understand that I get the big picture,” said Smith.
“I am constantly aware of the fact that I don’t just represent me, I represent ESPN. As a result, I have to take into account what they think and what they feel… They appreciate that because I’m not throwing them into the bowl with me.”
Whenever Smith makes a point during a debate, he is very confident in what he says and it does not matter to him what any fan or player thinks.
“I’m incredibly confident in what I say. Meaning that I pride myself in being a human being,” he said. “I know I’m not trying to get personal and I know I’m just doing my job. I don’t worry about fans. Hell with that. You watch me for a reason. It ain’t the other way around. My attitude is this is my job and it’s what the hell I’m going to do.”
Sometimes, Smith can be hard on athletes for some of the things that they do. However, he says he is trying to protect those athletes from people who try to change their character off of one mistake.
“What I mean by that is I don’t try to protect players from being held accountable for what they do. I try to protect players from being character-assassinated as to who they are,” said Smith. “We have all made mistakes. What I’m not going to do as a black man in a position of influence is allow folks to look at another black athlete… I’m never going to allow somebody to look at y’all and say this is who you are because of something you did.
“For me to get in that position and forget that inherent responsibility that I believe I am supposed to have to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. To provide perspective is very, very important to me. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything. What it means is I try to articulate where you are coming from so people can understand that and judge it according to that.”
Even though Smith can show a variety of different moods away from the camera, he knows that when he’s on television, it’s about making sure that the audience is tuning in and stops flipping the channels because they want to hear him.
“I’m a multitude of things. I can be mellow, I can be loud, I can be bombastic or demonstrative, I can be quiet, I can be pissed off and mean as hell,” Smith said. “I can be very jovial and fun-loving. It all depends on what the moment calls for. None of us are truly, truly one-dimensional.”
“What I would tell you about me on television is this. I believe this in my soul. I am a winner, bro. I am not trying to lose. In television, it is about ratings and revenue. My whole position is who do you want to watch when you flip the channels?” he continued.
“When you are flipping through the channels, who are you going to stop and say let me see what this person has to say? In my mind, it is always me because I’m trying to show you that I am passionate and enthused about what we are talking about. I can’t do that if I’m mellow chilling in my house. I am projecting and asking the audience to stop what they are doing to watch me.”
Even though the show First Take was on the rise when Smith was debating Skip Bayless, he told the trio that whenever people would talk about the show to him years ago, he always gave credit to Bayless because in his mind, it was his show. Once Bayless left, it became Smith’s show in his eyes, as talented as Max Kellerman is:
“The moment Skip was gone, it was mine just like when I was there, it was Skip’s,” Smith said. “Once 2016 came, those four years that we were together, go back and read my clips. I don’t give a damn how much my star supposedly was rising. I always made it clear it was Skip’s show because he brought me there. He knew the formula for which the show would work, I followed his lead and I became what I am for First Take because of him.
“The same applies to anybody that comes to First Take now because just like he set the stage for me, I am setting the show for everybody.”
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.