Kun Agüero and the athletes who become streamers

Twenty years ago no one had heard of a podcast. Today the industry is booming with new submissions and listeners joining the phenomenon every day. Podcasts have grown in popularity in recent years with over 2.4 million podcasts available on a variety of digital platforms, with Youtube and Spotify to the head.

“Without the filters that exist on TV and radio, podcasting allowed its creators to make programs that attracted crowds. The great figures helped popularize the genre, but it was the sum of all the small programs that consolidated audiences. As a result, the sector has grown 463% since its beginnings, a decade and a half ago,” summarizes Gabriel Soto of Edison Research.

“The drop in viewership was seen when things began to normalize, but there is a second wave leveraged especially by megastars coming from sports,” explains Soto. Currently, 424.2 million people around the world listen to podcasts, and this number is expected to reach more than half a million by 2024. The majority of listeners are between 12 and 34 years old. “Having been raised in the information age, young people also have a greater desire to listen to content whenever they want,” Soto confirms.


In football, the phenomenon was streaming. Unscripted and spontaneous, and with a paw in video gamesattracted a dozen stars who embraced the Twitch platform to connect with their fans directly and quickly: they became “hosts” without paying the cursus honorum required by traditional media.

A batch of successful streamers that includes, among others, Neymar Jr, “Kun” Agüero, Javier Hernández, Antoine Griezman and Edison Flores. The Argentine was a pioneer there during the pandemic, and after the early end of his career, he consolidated a business in which he has just added Lionel Messi, with his own esports teams. And they followed him on that plan Antoine Griezman (former Atlético de Madrid forward), who has more than 200,000 followers in his “live” channels in which he develops tactics for different video games. The same as the popular “Orejitas” Flores, who opened his channel on Twitch with almost 70,000 fans who watch him play Warzone, FIFA and Call Of Dutty.

But others embraced the podcast format, such as Mexican forward “Chicharrito” Hernández, who often tells anecdotes about the teams he has been on. “The important thing is to reinvent yourself day by day,” says the Argentine. Brian Sarmientowho went from professional player to streamer: today he shares anecdotes on the platform Ebeplay“the first digital sports media”, as it defines itself, a YouTube channel that broadcasts from Monday to Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Athletes to the podcast

“When they offered me the stream, what I told them was that I was going to tell the things that are actually experienced,” says Sarmiento, reflecting “the handling of the players, the tightening of the bars“, the mistreatment of the fans, the leaders who make a living out of your money, the representatives that make a living out of your money.”

New era

When media company Religion of Sports debuted in 2018, backed by American football star Tom Brady, getting into the podcast business seemed like a no-brainer. The company hired more than a dozen audio producers and developed a wide range of programs.

But with a shaky advertising market, Religion of Sports canceled several of its shipments in 2022. And the same goes for the industry giants. Spotify has spent more than $1 billion in recent years acquiring production companies: It paid $230 million for Gimlet Media in 2019 and about $200 million more for The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ sports media company, in 2020. And when consumers spent even more time listening to podcasts during the pandemic, Amazon bought the popular podcast studio. Wondery for $300 million, while SiriusXM paid $325 million for Stitcher.

But in January 2022 it reduced its podcast area. “Platforms had been pouring money into shows just to see if they could grow audiences quickly, but now everyone is being a little more conservative,” explains Eric Nuzum, podcast strategist and co-founder of the independent studio Magnificent Noise. Vox Media and Pushkin Industries also announced layoffs. Amazon, SiriusXM, NPR and Spotify have tightened budgets in the last year. Short or seasonal narrative podcasts were removed. “The name of the game has been to do less with less”says a producer for NPR, the American public radio station that became world famous for producing the “Tiny Desk” music shows.

with rock

No other sport has as many figures with a rock imprint as NBA. The most famous professional basketball league in the world brings together the best athletes in the world: doubles and triples superstars who are also true characters. A magic that does not turn off when the dunks are finished, and has allowed them to have successful careers in the media as commentators (the case of the Argentine Fabricio Oberto on ESPN).

Athletes to the podcast

And dozens more have also joined in podcast format, giving new impetus to the genre after its leveling and adjustment. It is the case of Shaquille O’Neal, who has one of the longest shipments on the web. The former Orlando Magic, LA Lakers, and Miami Heat is the host of “The Big Podcast” where he interviews players.

Matt Barnes and Stephen JacksonNBA champions in 2007 and 2003 respectively, combine forces in “All the Smoke,” where they share their opinions on controversial topics. Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles They followed them with “Knuckleheads”, with the spirit of Eber Ludueña (the character of the rustic and unsuccessful soccer player of Luis Rubio) they laugh at their past and analyze the “covered” of each season: they have had more successes off the field.

And finally two sports figures, Draymond Green (4-time NBA champion) and Kevin Durant (2 times MVP of the finals), shine with their own shows, which are among the most listened to in the genre. Green, known for being one of the most outspoken players in the league, ranks 11th on Apple’s most popular podcasts; and Durant is among the most listened to personalities on the platform monthly.

Athletes to the podcast

In the NFL. New Heights, the podcast Jason and Travis Kelce lived up to its name in its first season. Before the brothers faced off in the Super Bowl, their show reached number one on Apple. Produced by Wave Sports, it is, according to its showrunner, much more than a podcast: “We like to call it a digital series, because we work a lot on editing the video,” says Mack Sovereign, executive vice president of content and strategy at WSE.

Since its launch, New Heights has added more than 2 million followers In the channel. And the Kelces’ show exemplifies how podcasts actually continue to grow, despite the emerging narrative of an industry reeling amid cancellations, budget cuts and layoffs.

In fact, 2023 has more programs than ever, more listeners and more advertisers, with advertising investment exceeding $2 billion according to eMarketer. That figure triples the total for 2019, and marks a growth in audience of 4 points compared to 2022, and one more point compared to 2021, when growth slowed after the boom in the pandemic.

Athletes to the podcast

And more and more active athletes (not just retired ones) are competing for the audience’s attention. Will Compton and Taylor Lewan’s “Bussin’ With The Boys” ranks two spots behind “New Heights” among the best american football podcasts. The Philadelphia 76er, Tyrese Maxey, has just launched his own show less than three years after his debut in the NBA, and the phenomenon is now also expanding to football. “I don’t think we’ve hit the saturation mark yet,” said Richelle Markazene, audio director at Omaha Productions, who coordinates a series of podcasts covering the NFL in association with ESPN.

Kevin Jones, CEO of Blue Wire, which oversees a network of more than 300 programssummarizes more succinctly: “Great athletes pull from their networks and help close advertising deals, and with that the business will continue to grow.”

by RN

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