Dan Le Batard on Stephen A. Smith Credit: The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz

Stephen A. Smith has struck a few production deals, just inked a partnership with iHeartMedia on his digital show, and still dominates daytime television as host and executive producer of First Take on ESPN. He has made himself as powerful as anyone in sports media, and just in time for a new contract with the worldwide leader, which longtime colleague Dan Le Batard expects will “shake the industry.”

Speaking on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Wednesday, Le Batard explained why believes this convergence of power moves will reaffirm Smith as the “voice and face of ESPN” with a paycheck to prove it.

“He is about to, I think, shake the industry with his next contract, and should because he’s a ratings monster,” Le Batard said.

Le Batard agreed with Smith’s recent claims that he is underpaid. Pat McAfee, Joe Buck, and Troy Aikman have all outdrawn Smith’s salary in recent negotiations with ESPN despite Smith’s public demands of being the highest-paid talent at the network.

“He welcomes in (Pat) McAfee and all these $17 million contracts … when he’s the voice and face of ESPN,” Le Batard argued. “And he’s now underpaid as soon as they arrive. He welcomes them all in, and now his ratings are giant.”

At the same time, Smith is creating leverage by going it alone in the production and podcast space. He can reasonably tell ESPN that they need him more than he needs them, which is a great place to be in negotiations.

“Stephen A. Smith also has a production company, which is going to be giant I am sure,” Le Batard added. “It is going to be powerful and impressive whether he does it with ESPN or outside of ESPN. Because Stephen A. Smith wants to play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the sphere of, ‘I’m as big a star in sports right now as there is. I’m a media star and I’m at my company and I’m underpaid.'”

In recent interviews on Bussin’ With the Boys and elsewhere, Smith has made it clear he will play hardball in upcoming talks with Disney. He has been open about his desire for a larger platform beyond First Take and even beyond ESPN. Whether that results in programming on ABC or a production deal with Disney is unclear, but the sky is the limit.

If McAfee’s deal is the baseline and Smith is thinking big, he could truly reset the salary baseline in sports media before long.

[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.