Michael Smith is finally free.
Smith and his tag-team partner, Jemele Hill, once had matching four-year, $10 million contracts and were supposed to be the faces of a fresh new and hip 6 p.m. “SportsCenter.”
Then, Jemele Hill was bought out and Smith went into complete purgatory and basically ostracized by ESPN. There were no current plans for his final two years at the network.
That has all changed now as Smith agreed to a buyout with ESPN on his four-year, $10 million contract, according to the NY Post.
It has allowed him to take a job as the executive vice president and chief content officer for a Hollywood-based startup called (Co)laboratory.
Smith said the settlement was “fair,” but would not go into detail.
He seemed to be really excited about his new path now that he is free from ESPN.
“It is really a unique startup,” Smith said. “It is a studio and startup incubator that is going to bring together the best of Hollywood and the sports world.”
Smith will still be on-air with his own projects, but he will be instrumental in partnering with others to develop a variety of content that can be sold on various platforms, such as digital, audio, over-the-top video, film and TV.
(Co)laboratory already has 21 projects in the works, Smith said. It is run by some heavy hitters, including Players Tribune co-founder Jaymee Messler, Thunder Roads Films founder Basil Iwanyk and brand strategist Greg Economou.
When asked about how his relationship with ESPN ended, Smith didn’t have anything bad to say.
“I was ready for a new chapter,” Smith said. “I was ready for a new challenge. I’ve been at ESPN for 15 years. I’ve worn pretty much every hat imaginable. Realistically, the opportunities that were available to me at this point, I don’t know how much growth they truly represented, especially compared to this opportunity.
“I think what we are going to do for athletes and content creators throughout the industry when it comes to storytelling and when it comes to content development and distribution, it is going to be significant, impactful and disruptive. For me, personally, this has really been the career growth opportunity that I have been waiting for to really jump back in the game.
“I’m not done being on-air talent. I’ll be the voice and the face of several projects for (Co)Laboratory. If the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll also do some on-air work outside of (Co)Laboratory.”
Good for Michael Smith.