Skip Bayless, the ESPN host best known for his tenure on ESPN2’s “First Take,” will leave the Walt Disney-owned sports network at the end of August, the cable outlet said in a statement. He is the latest in a spate of popular faces to leave the network in recent months.
“Skip Bayless has decided to leave ESPN when his contract expires at the end of August. His final appearance on First Take will be the day after the NBA Finals conclude,” ESPN said. “We want to thank Skip for his many contributions to ESPN. His hard work and talent have benefited ESPN for 12 years.”
The sports personality, who got his start as a sportswriter for The Miami Herald and The Los Angeles Times, initially joined ESPN as a panelist on a show called “The Sports Reporters.” He joined the network full time in 2004 on a show called “Cold Pizza,” a morning program that aired on ESPN2. In 2007, that program, originally based in New York, was moved to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and renamed “First Take.” Bayless has hosted along with Stephen A. Smith.
ESPN has placed new scrutiny on the performance of its on-air talent, as it grapples with subscriber erosion. In recent months, Keith Olbermann and Colin Cowherd left for new ventures. Olbermann parted ways after ESPN determined his program was not generating the viewership it wanted while Cowherd moved to Fox Sports. On Monday, it was revealed that Mike Tirico, a longtime play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and other programs, will leave the network for NBC.