The battle for sports podcasting supremacy is well underway and has been for some time.
ESPN has been a dominant presence in the space since the beginning, leveraging it’s daily radio programs and A-list talent, not to mention providing a new outlet for the 30 for 30 brand to shine. Barstool Sports also made early inroads in the podcasting world and routinely lay claim to some of the top spots on the podcasting charts. Bill Simmons and The Ringer have seemingly figured out the model for building a successful podcast network, built mostly on sports-related shows. The Athletic recently announced the launch of at least 40 new podcasts available outside the paywall (though subscribers will get bonus episodes not available to non-subscribers). The Players’ Tribune hired ex-Spotify exec Jeff Levick as its first CEO in 2017 with an eye towards revenue growth, which included podcast expansion. And then there’s Luminary, the network that got off to a very rocky start when ESPN and Barstool were among the many companies who opted out of their network but is still laying the groundwork for their own growth in the space.
As for Spotify, one of the biggest players in the streaming audio world, they’re going all-in on efforts to boost their in-house podcast network, and that includes a focus on sports content.
As first reported by The Information, Spotify has brought on former CBS News president David Rhodes as a consultant to develop their new-focused original audio programming strategy. Meanwhile, they’ve hired Amy Hudson to oversee their sports podcasting efforts.
Hudson was most recently the head of Facebook’s sports media partnerships in North America. While there, Facebook’s big push was around pushing free live streams of Major League Baseball games on their Facebook Watch platform. Apparently that program didn’t perform as well as hoped because the 2nd year of the deal saw the number of games available drop from 25 to six. Hudson also previously worked at Turner Sports and NBC Sports, getting her start working on Inside the NBA.
Spotify has a lot of deals inked for non-sports talent, including Kevin Bacon, Joe Budden, and the Obamas. They also have the rights to Jemele Hill is Unbothered, which moves in and out of the sports world. But it remains to be seen what other kinds of talent they’re able to attract for exclusive placement on their platform and if they’ll be able to break through the clutter. There are also so many quality sports podcasts for users to choose from, so it’s going to take some unique angles and interesting people to stand out from the crowd.