Despite a reported flirtation with SiriusXM, Dan Le Batard now appears to be remaining with ESPN when his contract there expires this summer.
Michael McCarthy of Sporting News reports Tuesday that Le Batard is “finalizing a long-term contract extension” but has not yet signed a new deal.
If ESPN can reach an agreement with Le Batard, the network will have locked in one of its most popular radio and TV personalities. Le Batard has contributed to variously ESPN platforms over the past decade, hosting Highly Questionable since 2011 and The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz since 2013. Despite (or maybe because of) various controversies, Le Batard has built up an almost cultish following, particularly surrounding his radio show.
Back in March, Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead reported that Le Batard was in talks with SiriusXM to take his radio show off ESPN and move it to satellite. Glasspiegel suggested SiriusXM could even build a channel around Le Batard.
Ultimately though, it always seemed unlikely that ESPN would let Le Batard walk — or that Le Batard would particularly want to walk. From the network’s perspective, losing Le Batard would mean needing to replace a centerpiece of its daily television and radio lineups, as well as a fan favorite. And from Le Batard’s perspective, moving on from ESPN would mean abandoning a massive audience and risking the same type of fade from relevance that other ESPN personalities have faced after leaving Bristol, which Le Batard has previously warned others about.
At this point, in fact, the track record of high-profile personalities leaving ESPN is so unimpressive that it’s fair to wonder how much leverage ESPNers have in contract negotiations. It seems that for every Dan Patrick or Colin Cowherd, who carved out a successful career post-ESPN, there are more than a few counterparts who failed to find an audience at other outlets and, in some cases, wound up returning to ESPN. For Le Batard and others in his position, staying at ESPN may not quite be the only choice, but it’s certainly the safest one.