Podcasting as a medium tends to be widely geographically distributed, especially for a network that works with multiple organizations rather than a single media company. That made it interesting when Blue Wire (which currently has more than 300 podcasts in their network) announced plans in February 2021 to launch a studio at The Wynn Las Vegas, with that coming as part of a larger multi-year partnership with WynnBet.
But the company touted the studio as something that would help them sign national talent. And Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones referenced that again around signings of figures like former NFL DB Will Blackmon (in September 2021, right around the studio’s opening), and then spoke to AA in 2022 about the success they were seeing from the studio.
At that time, Jones discussed how it helped them from a perspective of acquiring Las Vegas-based talent to work out of the studio regularly, a perspective of offering studio space to network podcasters in town for events (such as the 2022 NFL Draft and more), and a perspective of offering display advertising that can be seen on podcasts’ video feeds (which are becoming a more and more critical part of the overall podcast ecosystem).
And those second and third points were particularly important for Blue Wire around NBA Summer League this year. Blue Wire senior vice president (business development) Maggie Clifton recently spoke to AA by email, and said they scaled up their Summer League efforts in a big way this year. She said they reaped major rewards from that, and a key part of their focus on Summer League was about the length of the event.
“NBA Summer League was a perfect opportunity for NBA creators within the Blue Wire network and our external partners to create content at Blue Wire Studios,” Clifton said. “Key NBA figures–from the newly drafted players to the biggest stars and everyone in between–gathered in Las Vegas for two weeks, offering a long window for podcasters to capture interviews and record exclusive content.”
Clifton said Blue Wire emphasizes a lot of sports events, but Summer League still stands out as an opportunity given not just the length and the people it attracts, but also the proximity of games to the Wynn.
“There are opportunities like this year-round given the constant cycle of events and talent the city of Vegas, and the Wynn in particular, brings to town. Our podcasters frequently bring in remarkable guests even without a specific event connection, but the scale and length of NBA Summer League makes it an ideal time to have studio space so close to where games are being played all week.””
The “external partners” line there is worth some discussion, as that’s also a little unusual to see. Blue Wire welcomed in “featured guests” from Showtime and The Volume, leading to some of those networks’ podcasts (which are not on Blue Wire’s own network) being recorded in the Blue Wire studios. Clifton said other companies might see those networks as competition, but Blue Wire views them differently.
“We’ve shifted our approach to now take a highly external-facing view when optimizing Blue Wire Studios. Some may consider these fellow sports media publishers as our competitors, but we see them as partners. These networks bring in top podcasts and talent with incredible guests and generate high-quality content within our studio and at the Wynn year-round.”
“NBA Summer League was no exception. We of course brought in some of our top Blue Wire NBA podcasts, including Road Trippin’, Knicks Fan TV, Light Years, and more, but we’re always happy to work with partner networks to fill available timeslots in the studio and further establish Blue Wire Studios as a go-to for anyone producing content in Las Vegas.”
One piece of Summer League content that really took off for Blue Wire was New Orleans Pelicans’ star Zion Williamson’s interview on Gil’s Arena with Gilbert Arenas and Josiah Johnson. One tweet alone of the full 10-minute interview with Williamson has picked up 2.6 million views, almost 6,000 likes, and almost 1,000 retweets as of Tuesday:
Full Zion Williamson interview, gets honest about his weight and injuries on Gil’s Arena pic.twitter.com/hvKnMz73QT
— Ahmed/The Ears/IG: BigBizTheGod ?? (@big_business_) July 11, 2023
Clifton said there’s long been a lot of fan interest in Williamson, so he was a good fit here.
“Zion Williamson has been a talking point for various reasons since his first high school highlights went viral,” she said. “And fans were excited to hear Zion share honest answers to straightforward questions from Gilbert Arenas and the rest of the Gil’s Arena team.”
And she said this particular interview also shows how Blue Wire’s studios make it easier to land big guests, and to produce high-quality audio and video clips from them that can then perhaps take off more easily.
” The Zion interview going viral is proof of concept to podcasters all over that recording in Blue Wire Studios makes it easier to bring in huge guests like Zion because they like recording in the state-of-the-art studio space, and of course at the Wynn. When those guests make appearances and share newsworthy insight, the video and audio files will be extremely high quality, primed up for generating millions of views on social, YouTube, and podcast platforms.”
Beyond the big names and external partners, Blue Wire also had many of their local podcasters in town for Summer League come in and record at the studios. That included podcasters from New York (Knicks Fan TV), San Francisco (Light Years), Los Angeles (Lakers Nation), Minnesota (The Dane Moore NBA Podcast), and Oklahoma City (The Uncontested). Clifton said local coverage is an important part of the overall puzzle for them.
“Blue Wire started as a group of extremely localized podcasts catering directly to the most diehard fans,” she said. “Although the company has grown and evolved since then, we will always be home to content creators who have built and skillfully speak to their own audiences, whether they are covering one specific team or market or have a regional or national focus. We take pride in having great podcasters on our team across the board, so having a wide variety of both local and national shows record in the studio is always our goal.”
That inclusion of local comes at a time when there have been many recent moves away from at least some varieties of local sports coverage, including with The Athletic, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. But Clifton said local continues to play a valuable role for them, and fits with their other regional and national coverage.
“We think having a good balance of local, regional, and national coverage is important in sports media so that the biggest storylines across each league get expert coverage from the big-picture perspective as well as the zoomed-in look that local fans crave. Blue Wire will continue to amplify as many of those creators as we can, as we believe in their importance as part of the larger media picture and in the overall fan experience today.”
Clifton said overall, the reception they received from creators around Summer League was excellent, and she thinks they can build on it going forward.
“Creators both inside and outside of Blue Wire consistently let our team and the Wynn Las Vegas team know how impressed they are with the studio after recording there,” she said. “And we’re confident that those positive experiences coupled with some of the viral clips produced by our studio team will move more creators and stars to view Blue Wire Studios as the go-to for recording the best possible content in Las Vegas next time they’re in town, whether that’s for NBA Summer League next year, the upcoming F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, Super Bowl LVIII, or simply a weekend trip to Vegas.”
Clifton said the Blue Wire team is already looking ahead at some of those notable sports moments on the Vegas calendar.
“We’re already hard at work to build upon the buzz generated in-studio for upcoming ‘heat moments’ coming to Las Vegas,” she said. “We’ll bring in top Blue Wire podcasts as well as fellow sports media publishers again, plus brand partners to activate within the studio and across the massive media channels generating premium content in the Blue Wire Studios.”