Big changes on radio and TV for ESPN's Stephen A. Smith

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Stephen A. Smith during an interview on Radio Row at the NFL Media Center during the Super Bowl. Smith is reportedly leaving Sirius XM's Mad Dog Radio and taking his radio show back to ESPN.

This is going to be a busy week for Stephen A. Smith, a former Inquirer columnist who is one of ESPN’s most popular and controversial talents.

Faced with declining ratings since former co-host Skip Bayless took his hot takes to Fox Sports 1, ESPN is moving Smith and new co-host Max Kellerman from ESPN2 to the main network, where First Take is airing starting today from 10 a.m. to noon.

But it's not the only move Smith is making.

On Tuesday, Smith confirmed a report on The Big Lead that he'll host his last show on Mad Dog Radio on Sirius XM on Friday, and bring his weekday talk show back to ESPN. His new show, which could begin as soon as the end of the month, would be broadcast on ESPN radio affiliates 98.7 FM in New York and 710 AM in Los Angeles. It would also run on the network’s Sirius XM channels.

The move comes as Mike Francesa, the popular afternoon host at ESPN competitor WFAN, is expected to leave the station when his contract expires at the end of 2017.

A spokeswoman for ESPN  declined to comment on the report, and a request for comment from Sirius XM wasn't immediately returned. No word yet who would replace Smith in Mad Dog Radio's lineup. 

The move would mark Smith’s third stint with ESPN radio. He previously hosted shows on the network from April 2005 to April 2008, then later from February 2011 to April 2013 before moving to Sirius XM Radio. 

ESPN is investing a lot in Smith. But that comes amid ratings challenges for First Take since the departure of Bayless.

Through the end of November, First Take viewership is down nearly 35 percent versus last year, according to the website SportsTVRatings.com. ESPN execs have said all along they fully expected to take a ratings hit when Bayless left, but not because he was heading to a competitor.

“Skip could have left to work on a lobster boat and ratings would have suffered,” ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus told Sports Business Daily. “We knew there would be an impact with Skip and Stephen A. splitting up. It would be naïve and disingenuous to believe or say otherwise.”

Despite the ratings decline, First Take continues to dominate Fox Sports 1’s Undisputed, hosted by Bayless and former Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe.