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Skip Bayless Sticks With Fox Sports After Unsuccessful ESPN Courtship

Disney network wanted "First Take" host back for an ESPN+ show where he would have reunited with Stephen A. Smith

Skip Bayless is sticking around at Fox Sports, but only after his old home tried to woo him back.

Bayless, the handsomely paid sportscaster who left ESPN in 2016, turned down a chance to return to his old network, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. Not only that, Bayless would have reunited with his "First Take" co-host Stephen A. Smith for an ESPN+ show; the streaming service was the driving force behind the talks, the individual added.

ESPN declined to comment.

Bayless ended up signing a new four-year deal to remain with Fox Sports, according to the New York Post, who first reported Bayless' ESPN talks. The Post added that Bayless' new deal is for $32 million over those four years.

A rep for Fox Sports declined to comment.

On ESPN's side of things, the news shows how much of a priority ESPN+ has become. The streaming service, which first launched in 2018 has seen its subscriber count skyrocket mostly thanks to Disney bundling it with Hulu and Disney+. The service had more than 12 million subscribes as of Jan. 2.

Bayless was one of the most high-profile defections from ESPN over to Fox Sports. He hosted "First Take" since its inception in 2007 when it was part of the ESPN2 morning show "Cold Pizza." Bayless and Smith were co-hosts starting in 2012, and Max Kellerman has since replaced Bayless since 2016.