Colin Cowherd ESPN
Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images

Colin Cowherd, a top voice on ESPN’s radio network, is leaving the sports-media juggernaut, the latest prominent member of it talent pool to do so as the Disney-owned outlet seeks to make its way on a difficult and more costly playing field.

“We’ve enjoyed a mutually beneficial run with Colin for over a decade. He came to national prominence on ESPN with his unique perspective on sports and society,” said John Skipper, ESPN’s president, in a prepared statement. “Endings also bring new beginnings, for ESPN and Colin, and we thank him and wish him the best.”

Cowherd, who rose to greater fame by replacing Tony Kornheiser in a late-morning shift on ESPN Radio and then by hosting an ESPN2 talk show with Michele Beadle with a decidedly brash tone, follows two other top ESPN personalities who have parted ways with the company in recent weeks. ESPN said it would not renew Keith Olbermann’s contract last week. ESPN said in May it would cut ties with Bill Simmons, one of the best-known voices in sports journalism and a founder of the company’s Grantland digital culture-and-sports site.

ESPN tried to keep Cowherd on staff, according to people familiar with the situation and made an aggressive bid to do so, including a raise in compensation. The company believes a competitor likely made a more compelling offer, these people suggested. Spokespersons for Fox Sports and NBC Sports could not be reached for immediate comment.

ESPN finds itself in 2015 in a tricky position. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, the company lost 3.2 million subscribers in little more than a year, owing to more consumers using streaming video rather than cable to gain access to their favorite programs. But the fees ESPN must pay to various sports leagues for the rights to broadcast their games continue to rise. That means Skipper must navigate carefully, ensuring coverage of the bread-and-butter sports matches fans want but figuring out how to spotlight other talent who may not have the visibility or experience of the sportscasters who are leaving.

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