In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Skip Bayless says his move from ESPN to Fox Sports is one which will allow him to remove the handcuffs that had been placed on him by his former employer. Bayless expressed a frustration with his inability to speak candidly on subjects as a featured member of ESPN2’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith.
“Too many people in charge at ESPN, for my taste, were a little too fearful,” Bayless told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a Disney network. There are just certain boundaries that you can’t even tiptoe along. Not that we won’t have boundaries at Fox, because we will. [But] they will trust me to go a little deeper. I can be completely honest on everything.”
Bayless, didn’t state specifically which particular issues made him feel restricted, and he wouldn’t address rumors about Shannon Sharpe becoming a member of his new program, but he did add that despite those challenges at ESPN, leaving the network after 12 years was “extremely difficult.”
ESPN wanted to keep Bayless, and made efforts to do so. But ultimately Jamie Horowitz won the sweepstakes and landed the controversial and outspoken on-air commentator. With Fox, Bayless will earn a significant contract. Sources say it’s a four-year deal worth close to $6 million annually. The one challenge though is that Fox has a much smaller audience than his former employer, but that doesn’t bother Bayless.
“If you understand me, you know that I live for challenges,” he says. “And what bigger challenge than to go up against the juggernaut that is First Take?”
Bayless has taken the leap to join Fox Sports, largely in part because of his trust and respect for Fox Sports National Networks executive Jamie Horowitz. Bayless called Horowitz “the smartest man I’ve ever worked with in television.” He mentioned that when Horowtiz blew up Cold Pizza in favor of launching First Take, a whole lot of people at ESPN told Jamie it would be a disaster and fail miserably. But it didn’t.
Now the question becomes, can Skip Bayless help Horowitz rewrite history while going up against their former employer?