ESPN's decision to sign Pat McAfee is the biggest sports media news of the year so far. The Worldwide Leader is making a bet that McAfee's ability to appeal to a wide range of audiences will augment their current programming. Chairman Jimmy Pitaro is confident in McAfee's short- and long-term impact for the company. It's clear McAfee will be on ESPN's Mt. Rushmore of personalities going forward.
Here's everything you need to know about McAfee's deal with ESPN.
Pat McAfee ESPN Salary
When the McAfee news initially broke, reports suggested McAfee's deal would surpass $10 million per year. Two weeks later Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported McAfee's contract with ESPN was worth $85 million over five years, coming out to $17 million per year. For context, that is more than what the network gave to Joe Buck for Monday Night Football announcing duties ($15 million annually) but less than what they gave Troy Aikman ($18 million).
Here's what McAfee told the Post in regards to how the partnership between ESPN and himself will shake out:
“I will be paying my people and we will be producing the show fully,” McAfee said over DM. “[ESPN] will be handling a lot more of the backend stuff, while also providing a platform that is incomparable linear wise with a network of talent that is deep and awesome. Their production assets, league rights capabilities, and access to everything in the sports world makes us incredibly pumped about the possibilities and can’t wait to get started this fall. Jimmy and I had a lot of great convos thru this whole process.. some zooms, calls (WHADD), texts (WHADD), emails (WHADD). it was a cool couple of months negotiation phase involving a lot of different factors.
“Business obviously, creative, the future, previous situations for both of us, etc… Fun to hear his vision and listen to him. IMPRESSIVE executive. He’s always been a straight shooter with me, I’m thankful for his belief in me, and in us…”
Pat McAfee Show
With McAfee comes his eponymous show. How does ESPN plan to use it? The inital press release stated the Pat McAfee Show will be introduced into the daily afternoon lineup in the fall once football season kicks off. The show will be simulcast on cable, ESPN's YouTube channel, and ESPN+.
As of now there is no information regarding whether McAfee will continue appearing at WWE matches now that he's officially part of the ESPN flagship. Given it's basically free promotion it seems unlikely that ESPN will stand in McAfee's way if he wants to keep doing it, but it also sounds like a large part of McAfee's motivation for this deal was to make his life a little easier. Sprinting between ESPN and WWE engagements would not serve the same end.
In order to sign with ESPN McAfee had to call an audible. He was in the middle of a four-year deal with FanDuel worth $120 million. It is unclear exactly what happened but it seems safe to assume the deal is no longer in place since ESPN has their own partnerships with gambling companies. FanDuel is not exactly eager to explain what's happening, either. Per Marchand:
For its part, FanDuel won’t even address the McAfee situation. Not only did it fail to explain its view of how it dissolved, but it won’t even acknowledge that McAfee is gone.
After a spokesman for FanDuel said that no one at the sports gambling platform would be commenting, The Post asked if FanDuel still had an agreement with McAfee? The response was that, “FanDuel will not be commenting on McAfee.”
It is anybody's guess if we'll get more clarity on that front.