Stephen A. Smith’s Hot Take on Being Sports Media’s Biggest Name | The Deal

Stephen A. Smith’s Hot Take on Being Sports Media’s Biggest Name | The Deal

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Stephen A. Smith is a prominent figure in sports media, appearing regularly on TV and hosting a podcast.
  • Despite concerns about potential repetitive content, Smith's recent interview revealed many interesting insights.
  • Smith's authenticity, confidence, and ability to connect with his audience were highlighted.
  • At 56, Smith is considered to be entering his prime.
  • Smith openly discussed his past struggles, including being fired and not fully understanding the business side of the industry.
  • After learning from these experiences, Smith has become a dominant force in sports media.
  • Smith's success is attributed to his strong relationships, exceptional work ethic, and unwavering confidence.
  • He has adapted to the evolving media landscape and leveraged his popularity to become a pop culture icon.
  • Smith's career trajectory is remarkable, having gone from earning $400,000 annually to potentially securing a $20 million yearly contract.
  • His earnings are justified by the value he brings to his platforms and the data supporting his influence.
  • Smith has earned every dollar of his success through hard work and a deep understanding of the industry.

How Alex & Stephen A. know each other (00:02:20)

  • Stephen A. Smith knew Alex Rodriguez as a good baseball player who was personable, relatable, and fair-minded.
  • Alex Rodriguez knew Stephen A. Smith as a respected figure in baseball circles, especially in New York, and appreciated his status as a Yankees fan.
  • Alex Rodriguez sought advice from Stephen A. Smith during a difficult time in his career when he was suspended.
  • Stephen A. Smith provided tough love and honest advice, which Alex Rodriguez appreciated and led to the start of a respectful relationship between them.
  • Both Stephen A. Smith and Alex Rodriguez have experienced ups and downs in their careers but have learned from their experiences and grown as individuals.

Getting fired by ESPN (00:04:35)

  • Stephen A. Smith was fired by ESPN in 2009 due to a contract dispute.
  • He went from having four jobs to zero in one meeting.
  • He felt he was not fairly compensated and was overwhelmed with fear and sorrow.
  • He realized he had no knowledge of his true worth and no platform to prove it.
  • After being fired, Smith focused on mastering the business side of his career.
  • He positioned himself to define his worth and has had three contracts since then.
  • His current contract ends in June 2025, and he is confident he will be prepared for any outcome.

Learning from mistakes (00:07:50)

  • Stephen A. Smith admits his past arrogance and limited business knowledge.
  • He recognizes the importance of revenue generation in the media industry and regrets not being more educated about it.
  • Smith emphasizes the need to detach emotions and understand decision-making processes.
  • Mastering the business aspect is crucial for negotiations and personal empowerment.
  • His mother's influence helped him change his perspective and take responsibility for his actions.
  • Stephen A. Smith's success in sports media stems from his ability to separate emotions from business.

David Roberts & Returning to ESPN (00:11:48)

  • Stephen A. Smith discusses his return to ESPN after being let go from Fox Sports.
  • Dave Roberts, then-president of ESPN, had confidence in Smith's talent and work ethic.
  • Smith's reputation as a relentless competitor and his determination to win impressed Roberts.
  • Mark Shapiro, the president of William Morris Endeavor, initially had reservations about hiring Smith due to negative feedback from his direct reports.
  • Despite the objections, Shapiro decided to give Smith an audition after hearing positive feedback from Norby Williamson.
  • Smith went through a rigorous audition process, with 18 different people interviewing him.
  • Mike McQuaid, a senior coordinator producer at ESPN, questioned if Smith could transition from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.
  • Smith confidently asserted that he would excel in any environment and requested an opportunity to prove himself.
  • After a successful audition with Kevin Frazier, Smith was offered a three-year deal with ESPN.
  • Mark Shapiro praised Smith's audition as the greatest he had ever seen.

First Take & creating value (00:15:30)

  • Stephen A. Smith realized he needed to focus on the numbers and what he had to deliver to build his business.
  • He understood that being a consistent presence on a show, like First Take, would allow him to have a greater impact and increase his worth.
  • By being on First Take five days a week at 10:00 AM, the audience knew exactly where to find him, making it undeniable that he was the reason for any ratings increase.
  • Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless' show on ESPN2 became number one, even beating some of the Sports Centers in ratings.
  • Smith had dreams of transitioning from ESPN2 to ESPN one, which has a larger audience, to further increase their reach.
  • Despite changes in co-hosts, Stephen A. Smith remained the constant presence on the show, solidifying his position as a prominent figure in sports media.

Skip Bayless (00:18:34)

  • Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless had a partnership that significantly changed sports media.
  • Despite their seemingly different backgrounds, they were both hardworking journalists at their core.
  • One of the key moments in their partnership was during a segment on ESPN's SportsCenter, where Skip Bayless made an outlandish statement about athletes having an 11:00 PM curfew.
  • Stephen A. Smith initially found it humorous, but Skip Bayless was serious about his statement.
  • This moment made Stephen A. Smith realize that their partnership had the potential to be significant.
  • Stephen A. Smith's rise to prominence in sports media was not an overnight success.
  • He worked hard and consistently delivered quality content, which helped him gain a loyal following.
  • His ability to generate debate and controversy also contributed to his popularity.
  • Stephen A. Smith's success has allowed him to become a household name in sports media.

The ratings wars (00:21:00)

  • Stephen A. Smith and his co-hosts have been dominating the ratings in the sports media industry.
  • A few weeks ago, their show won by a 10 to one margin over their competitors.
  • Smith does not take joy in the lopsided victories as he wants his colleagues to succeed as well.
  • Despite the declining viewership of linear television, Smith and his show continue to see an increase in ratings.
  • Smith's primary focus is on generating revenue for ESPN and facilitating the success of the company and his colleagues.
  • He is willing to assist his colleagues and superiors in any way he can to achieve their goals.
  • While he wants everyone to succeed, Smith also has a strong desire to be the number one in his field.

How sports media is evolving (00:22:42)

  • Stephen A. Smith discusses the changing media landscape and how he is adapting his business to stay ahead.
  • He highlights the rise of new media platforms such as YouTube and the changing business model at ESPN.
  • Smith emphasizes the importance of owning and controlling one's own content and the potential for creating content for both linear television and streaming platforms.
  • He mentions his success with the Stephen A. Smith Show on YouTube, which has over 614,000 subscribers and averages over 8 million views per month.
  • Smith expresses his desire to be compensated for his work and to be involved in building and scouting new talent, creating different shows, and developing new platforms for content.

Mark Shapiro (00:25:54)

  • Stephen A. Smith and Mark Shapiro have a special relationship built over 20 years.
  • Despite occasional disagreements, they maintain a strong bond and mutual respect.
  • Shapiro's constant drive and energy inspire Smith to work hard and strive for success.
  • Smith values his personal relationship with Shapiro and credits him for his success.
  • Shapiro has consistently supported and protected Smith throughout his career.

Mentors (00:27:45)

Bob Iger (00:30:53)

  • Stephen A. Smith expresses his gratitude towards Bob Iger for taking him under his wing and providing guidance.
  • He emphasizes that he would never leverage his relationship with Iger for personal gain.
  • Smith mentions that he has nothing negative to say about Iger and considers him a true friend.
  • Iger advised Smith on the importance of business, not taking things personally, and educating himself to avoid personalizing issues that could compromise his performance.
  • Iger also reminded Smith that he doesn't always need to fight every battle and come out swinging.
  • Smith values the advice from Iger and believes that learning from wise individuals opens up more opportunities.

Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant (00:32:00)

  • Stephen A. Smith has interviewed renowned athletes like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
  • He draws inspiration from accomplished individuals who have influenced him, both from a distance and as friends or mentors.
  • Kobe Bryant advised Smith to focus on building his brand and avoid self-comparison.
  • Michael Jordan imparted lessons on the sacrifices required for success and the significance of perseverance.
  • Despite facing challenges such as poverty and the loss of his parents, Smith achieved success through hard work and determination.
  • Understanding the hardships of poverty, Smith prioritizes his family's financial stability and success, even at the expense of personal time.
  • Smith made a deliberate choice to prioritize his career and financial success over personal time and comfort.

Reflecting on success & upcoming contract (00:37:12)

  • Stephen A. Smith is poised to become the highest-paid sports commentator, acknowledging the success of peers like Pat McAfee, Troy Aikman, Joe Buck, and Kirk Herbstreit.
  • With 20 years in television and 12 years of consistent success, Smith believes it's his time to be duly recognized and compensated.
  • While valuing his relationship with ESPN and Disney, Smith is open to exploring other opportunities if his worth isn't acknowledged.
  • Smith emphasizes the importance of meritocracy and rewarding success in a capitalist system, focusing on the business aspect rather than just ESPN.
  • Despite criticism and doubt, Smith remains determined and motivated, highlighting his physical transformation and continued accomplishments.

Stephen A. the writer (00:42:38)

  • Stephen A. Smith emphasizes the importance of his writing career in shaping his success on television.
  • Being a columnist required him to consistently produce compelling and informative content, which instilled in him a strong work ethic and a commitment to substance.
  • Smith highlights his extensive experience covering various sports, including high school, college, and professional levels, as well as his time as a reporter covering homicide for the New York Daily News.
  • He expresses frustration with those who dismiss his accomplishments and focus solely on his loud and demonstrative on-air persona.
  • Stephen A. Smith asserts that he has earned his position as the biggest name in sports media through hard work, dedication, and a commitment to providing valuable content.
  • He acknowledges that his loud and opinionated style may be polarizing, but he emphasizes that it should not overshadow his extensive experience and knowledge in the sports industry.
  • Smith highlights his ability to connect with a wide audience and generate engagement, which he believes sets him apart from others in the field.
  • He expresses pride in his accomplishments and the impact he has made on sports media, and he remains committed to delivering thought-provoking and entertaining content to his viewers.

Stephen A’s advice (00:45:21)

  • Be committed to the work and the journey, not the results.
  • Forget about the glitz and glamour, focus on the work.
  • Be prepared for criticism and negativity, especially in the age of social media.
  • Don't let others bring you down, stay focused on your craft and be the best you can be.
  • There are no shortcuts to success, hard work and dedication are essential.
  • Stephen A. Smith advises aspiring sports media personalities to focus on the work and the journey, rather than the results.
  • He emphasizes the importance of hard work, sacrifice, and avoiding the allure of fame and glamour.
  • Smith warns of the prevalence of criticism in the age of social media and encourages aspiring individuals to develop inner confidence and humility.
  • He stresses the need to master one's craft and commit to continuous improvement.
  • Smith cautions against seeking shortcuts and emphasizes that success requires dedication and perseverance.

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