The Post has learned that NBC is attempting to sign ESPN’s Maria Taylor so she can be a part of its Olympic coverage, which begins in less than a week on July 23.
Taylor is currently hosting the NBA Finals for ESPN, but her contract with the network expires on July 20. Game 6 will take place on Tuesday, July 20, with a possible Game 7 on Thursday, July 22.
If Taylor leaves, ESPN will be faced with the unusual situation of having a different host end a major event than the one who started it.
Even if Taylor chose NBC, ESPN could try to see if she would stick around for the Finals.
Taylor has yet to make a final decision, but one is expected soon.
According to sources, ESPN has offered Taylor a contract worth around $3 million per year.
The Washington Post reported a week ago that NBC and Amazon were interested in Taylor, and that after this season, Taylor could take over as host of “Football Night in America” from Mike Tirico. In 2022-23, Tirico is expected to take over as the primary play-by-player on “Sunday Night Football,” replacing Al Michaels.
Taylor’s talks with Amazon have yet to heat up, but NBC is expected to start producing an exclusive Thursday night package in 2022-23. The Amazon-NBC deal is expected to be a three-year deal, with Amazon having the option to extend it to five years, according to sources.
Fred Gaudelli, the producer of “Sunday Night Football,” would be brought in as a result of this. The plan is for Michaels, who is in the final year of his NBC contract, to be courted by Amazon to be the play-by-play announcer, with a shot at Peyton Manning as analyst. If everything goes according to plan, Taylor could be the sideline reporter.
The controversy surrounding Taylor’s contract follows a New York Times report that included a year-old video of fellow ESPN NBA host/reporter Rachel Nichols saying in a private conversation that she was going to lose her job as host of the NBA Finals because ESPN wanted to improve its diversity record.
Following the story, Nichols was demoted from her position as a sideline reporter for the Finals.
In a memo to ESPN employees, network chairman Jimmy Pitaro said the choice of Taylor over Nichols was based on merit and emphasized the network’s commitment to diversity.
Taylor has been with ESPN for seven years, rising through the ranks from the SEC Network to a prominent role on “College Football GameDay,” sideline reporter on the No. 1 broadcast team, NCAA Women’s Tournament host, and NBA Finals host. Her annual salary is currently $1 million.
ESPN offered Taylor a contract last year that would have paid him nearly $5 million in the final year. Taylor has been looking for “Stephen A. Smith money.” Smith receives an annual salary of $8 million, plus a $4 million production deal, for a total of $12 million in compensation.
Taylor may have the right to match an NBC offer, so it’s unclear if he needs ESPN’s permission to work for NBC so quickly. Contracts frequently include matching rights, but they are rarely used.