Less than a year ago, Charissa Thompson appeared to be the new It-Girl at ESPN. With Erin Andrews departing for Fox, and Michelle Beadle leaving for NBC, Thompson was poised to become the network’s next big female star. ESPN tabbed her as Beadle’s replacement on the network’s popular afternoon show, SportsNation, and poured a lot of money into the show moving it across the country to LA.
And now, it appears ESPN could be on the verge of losing Thompson, possibly to Fox Sports. Sources say Thompson’s contract is up in July, and one ESPN mole is calling it the “worst kept secret in the building” that she’s going back to Fox. Another source said it’s too early in contract negotiations to tell.
After speaking with multiple people at ESPN and in the industry, here’s the situation: the competition among networks right now is fierce, and there’s a large demand for talent. Andrews and Beadle got paid handsomely – both north of $750k, if you believe the rumors – and Thompson (who is also hosting Splash on ABC) is on track to warrant a salary in that ballpark.
ESPN established last year with Andrews and Beadle it wasn’t going to go that high, but the network finds itself in a difficult spot – sources say SportsNation has been struggling ratings-wise (no, I don’t have numbers) since moving to LA, and what would happen if Thompson, a co-host on the show, leaves? Spending all that money to have a show go to LA, then losing a co-host … could it spell curtains for the show?
[Aside: A percolating story to keep an eye on could be – and I stress, could – ESPN wunderkind Jamie Horowitz vs the ESPN suits. Between the backlash to First Take and SportsNation struggling so far this year, plus the rumors of ESPN tabling a show of his, “Room for Debate,” it’ll be interesting to see if we’re slowly but surely seeing the end of the debate nonsense at ESPN. As I’ve been told, “Room for Debate” was going to be similar to “The View.” It was to be comprised of mostly former athletes – Lolo Jones, Ocho Cinco, John Sally, Hope Solo all allegedly tested for the show – talking sports. But one ESPN source says budget-tightening was the reason the show isn’t happening this year, not the ongoing debate issue.]