Athlete Podcasts Are Taking Off! (But Where Does This Lead?)
Athletes want their stories told better and a handful of companies are aggressively vying for the market share.
I don’t know if you noticed this…
But there’s been A LOT of athletes launching their own podcasts as of late.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem that interesting (or important).
Yet I assure you that it is…
And for two main reasons:
athletes want their stories told better
brands are being built around assisting athlete creators (and I’m bullish on many of these companies)
Media is changing and so are the aspirations of athletes — this combination (especially when looking at podcasts) is interesting.
Let’s Dive In 👇
The Rise of Athlete Podcasts
Everyone will give you different answers, but if you ask me where this all started I will tell you…
The Player’s Tribune (TPT).
Which was launched in 2014 by Derek Jeter and his business partner Jaymee Messler, a former CMO at Excel Sports Management.
TPT uses podcasts, written articles, and video content to tell the stories of athletes.
It received massive funding in its early years and was acquired in 2019 by Minute Media, an Israeli digital entertainment media company.
Ok cool, but what does this have to do with anything?
Let me tell you…
The Floodgates Opened from TPT
The Player’s Tribune showed the world that athletes want to tell their stories, but from their own platforms.
Not long after you had:
Lebron James launch The Shop: Uninterrupted.
Pat McAfee retire from the NFL to start his own show.
Brandon Marshall create “I Am Athlete”.
Kevin Durant, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Steph Curry launch their own production arms.
But the reality is…
Most athletes aren’t popular enough to have their own shows and/or enough money to create their own production arms.
On top of that, most athletes don’t have the infrastructure to support it.
And that’s when the opportunity arose (and founders jumped all over it).
Middleman Media Studios
So what goes into creating a successful podcast?
A lot more than you think:
equipment (mic, camera, lights, etc)
software (recording, editing, etc)
research and outreach
posting short-form videos
publishing to podcast platforms
securing brand deals
and a whole lot more…
“What someone else makes look simple, is often complex, but made simple through repetition and iteration.” — Andrew Petcash
The ROI for most “active” athletes trying to do a podcast on their own isn’t worth it.
Once you’re “retired” it becomes more reasonable — but retired athletes don’t have as much social influence as when they were playing.
Companies that understand this dynamic have started building the infrastructure for athletes that don’t have time/resources to do their own podcasts.
Let me show you some examples:
Athlete Podcast Companies
*To note: some of these companies do more than just help set up athlete + celebrity podcasts — but that’s all I’m focusing on here.
It’s interesting to see how these companies are basically the same thing — but approaching it in different ways.
With over 300 podcasts under management, many of them being sports-focused, Blue Wire is leading the way.
They host the podcasts of several pro athletes including Gilbert Arenas, Chris Long, Lisa Leslie, Lolo Jones, Terrell Owens, Megan Rapinoe, and more.
Last summer, they raised an additional $2.5 million.
Overall, in its creative network, Team Whistle has more than 200 content creators.
But they’ve done something unique — setting up creator incubators to identify talented athletes and sports personalities.
Team Whistle’s inaugural program even included two college athletes.
Washington State QB Cameron Ward and Montana kicker Adam Botkin.
And given a long enough time frame, these creators will start to launch podcasts.
In 2021, Team Whistle was acquired by ELEVEN SPORTS.
Last week, Viral Nation welcomed MLB superstar Mookie Betts to its expanding professional athlete roster with the launch of his YouTube channel (which will also have podcast segments).
Viral Nation Creator Studio is built around giving fans unprecedented access to the lives of their favorite celebrities and athletes.
Viral Nation’s roster includes top talent such as Tyreek Hill, Julio Rodriguez, and Sydney McLaughlin.
With an array of sports-focused social media handles under management, Wave Sports + Entertainment has also started bringing on creators.
Last fall, they helped launch “New Heights” which is Jason and Travis Kelce’s podcast.
The show is already crushing it: 📈
Youtube: 653k subs,164M views
Wave Sports + Entertainment raised a $27M Series B last summer.
With the success of the “micro-content” platforms above, we have seen the forward-thinking conglomerates get involved.
Brandon Marshall’s I Am Athlete signed a deal with SiriusXM.
The Pat McAfee Show signed a 4 year, $120M deal with FanDuel.
I think it’s important to take a peak at the business model behind these companies.
Podcast Management Model
First off, you have to identify talent and recruit them to come to your infrastructure.
Then you can figure out the revenue model which is fairly simple.
Revenue Split or Salary.
I would say the majority of platforms operate off of revenue splits (as it’s upside and downside protection for both the company and the athlete).
So where does the revenue come from?
And when you have an array of podcasts under management, it makes it much easier to sell sponsorship slots to brands.
I’m curious to see how these companies evolve their business models over time — as there is only a finite amount of athletes/celebrities worth having their own podcast (in terms of profitability).
I expect to see a lot more athlete podcasts over the next few years.
Pro athletes are increasingly turning to professional content studios to diversify their personal brand, as they see high value in connecting with fans and brands on digital platforms.
On the flip…
Big brands, particularly media conglomerates & betting companies, will most likely start setting up some of their own incubators.
Podcasts are going to put a strain on radio stations (which will force them to start seeking talented creators/athletes).
And even college athletic departments are starting to think about how to provide their athletes and fans with personalized content.
Clemson just built a whole media studio for their athletes. 👀
In today’s age:
Attention is the new oil — and your personal brand is the pipeline.
Athletes have that to their advantage (and are starting to use it with podcasts).
Exciting times are ahead!
My most recent guest was Dugald Macdonald, CEO & co-founder of Sportable.
Founded in 2014, Sportable is designing and implementing cutting-edge data collection technology, enabling fans to see inside the play.
You’ll enjoy this episode as we discuss:
putting data chips in rugby balls
scaling a startup to 70+ employees
bringing Moneyball analytics to fans
where the future of sports is headed
Check out the podcast episode here.
Have an awesome weekend!
I’ll be back on Sunday with the weekly roundup.