Can't get enough of Stephen A. Smith on ESPN's First Take? The worldwide leader is planning a shakeup of the popular sports debate show that gives the colorful Smith a more visible role on the program.
Along with a set and logo makeover, the network is bumping up Smith, an often bombastic personality, from occasional visitor to full-time debater opposite [Skip] Bayless, the Los Angeles Times reported. The idea is for the morning chat-fest to become a full-on 'Crossfire,' in which Bayless and Smith, separated only by moderator Jay Crawford, make a French presidential debate look like an exercise in civility.
We tweaked the show format last year to focus more on debate and specifically on presenting and challenging Skip's opinions and we saw our viewers respond to that change, said Jamie Horowitz, ESPN's VP of original programming and production, according to broadcastingcable.com. Given the response we've seen on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, we dug a bit deeper into the ratings data and know that the riveting combination of Stephen A. and Skip debating their views resonates with our viewers. Our plan with this relaunch is to give them even more of the show elements they like best.
Bayless is the constant of the show and he usually debates a diverse number of people on First Take, although Stephen A. Smith is the most frequent debater.
The Smith-Bayless tandem is somewhat of an odd couple, which makes the duo TV gold.
I'm a forty-something black man from the streets of Queens; he's a 60-year-old man from Oklahoma. It's not like we go shopping on weekends, Smith told the Los Angeles Times.
You can almost count on Bayless and Smith appear on Twitter's trending topics nearly every day.
First Take airs on ESPN weekdays at 10 a.m.
Bayless, 60, is a former reporter for the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and Dallas Morning News, among other publications.
Smith, 44, was a noted sports columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and currently hosts The Stephen A. Smith radio show in Los Angeles and New York, aside from his First Take appearances.