Podcasts have become a bigger part of ESPN’s focus recently, especially with the 30 for 30 podcasts, and they’re continuing to roll out some new ones.
While Season One of the 30 for 30 podcasts just wrapped up, they’re doing some bonus episodes speaking with directors of TV 30 for 30 films (and other ESPN documentaries) that will be available on that feed. They’re also launching a new college football podcast with Kirk Herbstreit and his former Columbus radio partner Ian Fitzsimmons, expanding and rebranding the Championship Drive NCAA football podcast to Campus Conversation, covering all college sports, and launching a new daily NFL podcast with different hosts and focuses each day. First, here’s more on the 30 for 30 bonus episodes from their release:
Season one of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Podcasts series recently concluded, but fans now can hear five bonus episodes in their podcast feed in the coming weeks. 30 for 30+, a series of conversations with producer/host Jody Avirgan and some of the filmmakers behind recent ESPN Films documentaries, have begun. In July, “30 for 30” podcasts were the most popular of the 30 original ESPN podcasts. The series had more downloads per episode than any other ESPN offering in 2017, with 2.4 million downloads since launching in late June.
In the 30 for 30+ series, Avirgan and the filmmakers go behind the scenes of these recent documentaries and dissect some of the larger themes and storylines as well as discuss some elements that didn’t make it into the final version. Listeners will hear “Mike and The Mad Dog” director Daniel Forer tell how he learned that the legendary radio duo was open to a reunion and “Wally and the Worm” director Colin Hanks reveal what he learned about the legendary Bulls team of the ‘90s in telling the story of Dennis Rodman’s escapades.
Those episodes will speak to Forer (already available), George Best: All By Himself director Daniel Gordon (available as of Tuesday), What Carter Lost director Adam Hootnick (available as of Aug. 29), Colin Hanks and Wally Blasé from Wally and the Worm (Sept. 5), and Mike Tollin, director of Morningside 5 (Sept. 12).
As for the Herbstreit and Fitzsimmons podcast, that will launch Wednesday, Aug. 30, and feature regular college football discussion between Herbstreit (who’s once again being used extensively on ESPN’s coverage this year, including calling three games in five days on Labor Day weekend) and Fitzsimmons (who co-hosts a regular ESPN Radio late-night show with Freddie Coleman and does sideline coverage for ESPN Radio’s NCAA and NFL coverage). Here’s how Fitzsimmons described it:
“If you love college football, then this show will be for you,” Fitzsimmons says. “Herbstreit & Fitzsimmons will be insightful, light-hearted and we’ll have some of the biggest names in sports – and in entertainment – having fun talking ball and life. I’m so excited to be back with my old radio partner, Herbie…It’s gonna be a fun ride!”
The new weekday NFL podcast, The Nickel Package, is an interesting concept as well. It will have a different host each day, with Field Yates hosting Mondays, David Jacoby hosting Tuesdays with new ESPN face Cian Fahey (who’s written for Football Outsiders as well as Bleacher Report and The Guardian), Bill Barnwell hosting Wednesdays, Mina Kimes and Domonique Foxworth hosting Thursdays, and Mike Golic Jr. hosting Fridays. Most of those people already host other ESPN radio shows or podcasts, and it sounds like they’ll keep that up as well, but this is an interesting idea to try and bring a variety of different takes and approaches to a single NFL podcast. At the least, it gives ESPN a NFL podcast to promote every day, and it may also help listeners find some new voices to follow.
The Campus Conversation move is a less-dramatic change, but it’s notable to see it expanding beyond just college football. There’s still going to be lots of college football talk there, especially in-season, but this should make it more of a year-round presence from ESPN. Ivan Maisel, Matt Schick, Heather Dinich, Chris Low, and Adam Rittenberg will continue on that show, while SEC Network’s Peter Burns will also be joining it, and Matt Barrie and Paul Finebaum will do a special Sunday edition. They’re planning to do this three times a week to start, then five times a week once the college football season kicks off.
All in all, ESPN’s putting a lot of resources into podcasts (this doesn’t even cover many of the other ones they currently have), and some of those efforts seem to be finding traction, especially when it comes to the 30 for 30 ones. But it’s a crowded sports podcast marketplace, and not an easy one to launch new shows. ESPN does have significant branding and promotional power though, and these NFL and NCAA podcasts sound like things they’ll be able to give some play on their site and perhaps in other mediums. And they could provide some interesting content. We’ll see how it goes.