Michael Smith hasn’t been very visible at ESPN since the network pulled the plug on SC6, and now after a contract buyout agreement he’s officially leaving.
News of the buyout were reported by Andrew Marchand in the New York Post, as well as Smith’s plan to join a Los Angeles startup company:
Former “SportsCenter” host Michael Smith has agreed to a buyout with ESPN on his four-year, $10 million contract, which has allowed him to take a job as the executive vice president and chief content officer for a Hollywood-based startup called (Co)laboratory, The Post has learned.
When reached for comment, Smith said the settlement was “fair,” but would not go into detail. His contract was not scheduled to expire until February 2021.
Anyone hoping for Smith to air out grievances with his now-former employer is going to be disappointed:
“I was ready for a new chapter,” Smith said. “I was ready for a new challenge. I’ve been at ESPN for 15 years. I’ve worn pretty much every hat imaginable. Realistically, the opportunities that were available to me at this point, I don’t know how much growth they truly represented, especially compared to this opportunity.”
The buyout comes a few years before the contract was up, but obviously Smith was eager to get back to working in some capacity. Jemele Hill was also bought out of her deal last September, and has moved on to work as a contributor for The Atlantic.
Smith, meanwhile, will be working with (Co)laboratory, a startup focused on melding the worlds of sports and entertainment:
“It is really a unique startup,” Smith said. “It is a studio and startup incubator that is going to bring together the best of Hollywood and the sports world.”
Smith will still be on-air with his own projects, but he will be instrumental in partnering with others to develop a variety of content that can be sold on various platforms, such as digital, audio, over-the-top video, film and TV.
(Co)laboratory already has 21 projects in the works, Smith said. It is run by some heavy hitters, including Players Tribune co-founder Jaymee Messler, Thunder Roads Films founder Basil Iwanyk and brand strategist Greg Economou.
Considering the amount of headlines Hill and Smith generated during their time hosting SC6 together, it’s kind of odd to see them both gone, and both gone with such little fanfare.