Sports podcasts are a subset of podcasts that cover topics related to sports and athletes. Content can include sports news, predictions and analysis of game results, debates and discussions between hosts, and interviews with sports figures.


Bill Simmons is often credited with helping popularize sports podcasts

Podcasts in general began to gain a following in the mid and late 2000s. In October 2004, Sam Coutin began The Sports Pod and shortly after he launched the My Sports Radio podcast network.[1][2] By 2006, shows on Coutin's network were achieving 500,000 downloads each month.[2]

ESPN was an early adopter of the podcast format, launching their first in 2005.[3] In 2007, Bill Simmons stumbled upon a podcast interview of Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge by ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford.[4] Simmons, also an ESPN employee at the time, inquired to his management about hosting a podcast of his own. Simmons was sent basic audio equipment and hosted his B.S. Report podcast in a DIY fashion from his home.[4] Simmons' podcast was popular among sports fan and he his success would help "launch a sports podcast revolution."[4]

In 2016, Simmons left ESPN and founded his own website venture, The Ringer, that centered much of its focus through podcasts.[5] His Bill Simmons Podcast hosted on the website was "the lone sports program among iTunes' 20 most popular [podcasts in 2017]."[4] Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee retired following the 2016 NFL season and ventured into podcasting. His eponymous Pat McAfee Show has been credited with "paving the way for fellow athletes to pursue a media career upon retirement."[6]

Around this period, sports podcasst began attracting more attention as a vehicle for advertisements, similar to how sports radio functions.[4][5] The Ringer's ad sales exceeded $15 million in 2018.[7] From 2015 to 2020, ad revenue for podcasts rose 1,350%; sports podcasts were near the top of all genres driving that revenue.[8]

By the late 2010s, podcast versions of sports television talk shows like The Herd with Colin Cowherd and First Take were among popular sports podcasts.[4] Radio shows are also repackaged into podcasts.[6] Established sports networks, such as ESPN, also offered original podcast programming in addition to their repackaged content.[6] Series hosted by Bomani Jones and Katie Nolan, as well as Barstool Sports' lineup, including Pardon My Take, were also cited as popular by the Sports Business Journal (SBJ).[4]

Colin Cowherd launched The Volume podcast network in 2021

The 2020s brought upon further expansion and growth for sports podcasts, with major acquisitions and network developments occurring.[6] Simmons sold The Ringer to Spotify for $196–$250 million in 2020.[9][10] In 2021, television station group Tegna purchased the Locked On Podcast Network, "which produces 160 daily shows for U.S. sports teams."[6] Partnering with iHeartMedia in 2021, established sports media personality Colin Cowherd launched The Volume, his own podcast network, to better connect with consumers.[6][11] In January 2022, Fox Sports launched Fox Audio Network, a podcast network to leverage its on-air talent such as Skip Bayless and Nick Wright, in the audio space.[12][13]

Audience and demographics

Early in the history of sports podcasts, exact numbers on viewership was difficult to track. ESPN opted to not share viewership of The B.S. Report with Simmons, and the latter only realized how popular his podcast was when Seth Meyers, then a cast member on Saturday Night Live, asked to guest on it.[4]

In 2018, SBJ wrote that "Unlike TV, where live games account for all but a handful of the most-watched programs in the U.S. each year, sports podcasts trail shows focused on news and political shows or general interest in both audience size and revenue."[4] According to industry analyst Podtrac, only two sports programmers ranked among top 10 among podcast programmers in March 2018: ESPN was ranked 7th and Barstool Sports was ranked 10th, with 4.4 million and 2.4 million monthly unique listeners, respectively.[4] ESPN experienced a 43% increase in 2018 over 2017 in podcast downloads.[14][15] The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz was the network's most downloaded sports podcast show in 2018, with more than 91 million IAB Certified downloads.[15]

In 2019, ESPN executive Traug Keller stated that "podcast listeners skew significantly younger, certainly younger than ESPN Radio, in fact, younger than any other platform at ESPN," detailing that, "the ESPN podcast listener is on average 33, and 60% of our podcast listeners are 18 to 34. That's 13 years younger than our radio listeners."[14]

See also


  1. ^ Herrington, Jack D. (2005). Podcasting Hacks. O'Reilly Media. p. 167. ISBN 9780596100667. Retrieved September 27, 2022.}
  2. ^ a b Walch, Rob; Lafferty, Mur (May 22, 2006). Tricks of the Podcasting Master. Pearson Education. pp. 87–90. ISBN 9780132714730. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  3. ^ Keller, Traug (February 7, 2018). "ESPN's podcast business benefits from history". ESPN Front Row. ESPN. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Spanberg, Erik (May 7, 2018). "The Podcast Revolution". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Hull, Kevin (November 23, 2021). Sports Broadcasting. Human Kinetics. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9781492598572. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Ratts, Tyler; Benedek, Jonathan J. (December 14, 2021). Pedersen, Paul M. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Sport Management. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 362–363. ISBN 9781800883284. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  7. ^ Mullin, Benjamin; Flint, Joe (January 29, 2019). "For Bill Simmons's the Ringer, Podcasting Is the Main Event". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  8. ^ Bassam, Tom (November 12, 2020). "Casting a wide net: The business of sports podcasting". SportsPro Media. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  9. ^ Spangler, Todd (February 12, 2020). "Spotify Is Paying Up to $196 Million in Cash to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer". Variety. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  10. ^ Shaw, Lucas (February 11, 2020). "Spotify Pays $250 Million for Ringer in Podcasting Drive". Bloomberg News. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  11. ^ Hayes, Dade (May 18, 2021). "Colin Cowherd Podcast Network The Volume Taps Sports Media Vet Logan Swaim As Head Of Content". Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  12. ^ Chan, J. Clara (January 13, 2022). "Fox Sports Launches Podcast Network With New Skip Bayless Show". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 26, 2022.
  13. ^ Goldsmith, Jill (March 2, 2022). "New Fox Audio Network Inks Advertising, Distribution Deal With Spotify's Megaphone". Retrieved September 26, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Goldstein, Steven (February 15, 2019). "Why ESPN is all in on podcasts; We interview ESPN's Traug Keller". Amplifi Media. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  15. ^ a b "ESPN Exec Bullish on Podcasts". Podcast Business Journal. February 20, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2022.