In our detailed look at free agency amongst the major sports networks, it was amazing to see the exodus of talent from Bristol. In about a year, ESPN had said goodbye to Erin Andrews, Michelle Beadle, Bruce Feldman, Brian Kenny, and about a dozen well-known personalities. However, ESPN has the luxury of seeing such individuals leave without missing a beat because of their ability to build new stars all the time as the sports behemoth they are.
Alas, not everyone is leaving Bristol. The most important move in this past cycle of free agency was ESPN keeping Scott Van Pelt, who has grown into arguably the network's top cross-platform personality in the past few years. Now, ESPN has announced the re-signing of a host of additional on-air talent. SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, and NFL reporters Adam Schefter, John Clayton, and Ed Werder have all signed multi-year contract extensions.
In the past, this would have gone quietly under the radar. However, as Michael Hiestand notes in USA Today, ESPN will be announcing deals like this in order to discount the notion that top talent is actively looking to leave the friendly confines of Bristol for greener pastures. It's a simple PR move by the leader to remind the world of their status as kings of the sports media mountain.
As far as the individuals re-signed, Schefter, Clayton, and Werder are all among the best as what they do. Schefter particularly has blossomed into ESPN's #1 insider regardless of sport since his move from NFL Network in 2009. Kiper has been surpassed by Mike Mayock as the premier NFL Draft analyst in the eyes of many, but I still regard the two largely as equals. Stuart Scott's peak popularity came long ago, but he's bearable in small doses as long as he's toned down and kept away from the NBA Draft.
Additionally, Richard Deitsch reported more details at SI including the length of contracts for the NFL quartet:
*Mel Kiper – 6 year deal through 2018 (which will take him to his 35TH NFL DRAFT for the network)
*Adam Schefter - 5 year deal through 2017
*John Clayton – 4 year deal through 2016
*Ed Werder – 4 year deal through 2016 (including expanded responsibilities around the league)
To me, these details becoming public are the more intriguing part of this story. In the past, contract details for the top sports media figures were kept under lock and key. Remember the shock when we learned Gus Johnson's contract had expired with CBS and he was on his way to Fox? That news came from out of nowhere. Yet in the past year, with reporting from mainstream and new media sources, we've been able to follow along on the negotiations of Erin Andrews, Scott Van Pelt, and Michelle Beadle. Just yesterday, The Big Lead noted Dan Shulman may be the next ESPNer to hit the free agent market as another cycle of movement begins.
The bottom line should be as true for sports media as in any other realm of reporting. As more and more of these details become public knowledge, it's a benefit for sports fans and those interested in the media to have information flowing more freely.