Barstool Sports recorded more than $15 million in podcasting revenue in 2018, according to a source. Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports, declined to comment on how much revenue Barstool’s podcasts generated last year, but confirmed that it has become a meaningful business for the company. Half of Barstool’s advertising revenue is from podcasts, Nardini said.
Barstool’s network of podcasts currently consists of 25 active shows. Top shows include “Pardon My Take” (which is a top-10 U.S. podcast according to podcast measurement firm Podtrac); “Spittin Chiclets” (an NHL-focused podcast with former players Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette); “Call Her Daddy” (sex and relationships); and “Fore Play.”
The cumulative reach across all of Barstool’s podcasts was 7.9 million uniques in January, up from 4.3 million unique viewers a year ago, according to Podtrac data provided by Barstool. Podcasts were also downloaded 37.9 million times in January, up from 19.9 million in January 2018, Nardini said. This has helped make Barstool a top-10 podcast publisher in the U.S., according to Podtrac. It ranked above such well-known media brands as ESPN but still trailed podcast heavyweights like NPR and The New York Times.
Audience growth is translating into revenue. Barstool has already sold 50 percent of its expected 2019 podcast inventory upfront, Nardini said. The average rate per spot grew 30 percent year over year. Other existing sponsors for Barstool podcasts include New Amsterdam vodka, FanDuel and SeatGeek.
Barstool’s podcasts are anchored by personalities, such as Dan Katz and PFTCommenter on “Pardon My Take.” This influencer approach has helped bring in loyal audiences and also turn some of these shows into franchises that can deliver different forms of revenue. For example, “Call Her Daddy” — which is a real name for a show in which hosts Alex Cooper and Sofia Franklyn talk about sex and relationships while living in New York City — is sponsored by men’s health brand Roman, but Barstool also creates merch for fans of the show. It has also become Barstool Sports’ second-biggest podcast, after “Pardon My Take,” and 70 percent of the audience is female, Nardini said.
“Podcasts are the single most compelling way we create IP,” said Nardini. “And it’s very natural for Barstool — podcasts and blogs are not that different.”
The podcasting market is growing, although still small. Podcast ad revenues are expected to reach $514.5 million in the U.S. this year, which pales in comparison to the tens of billions of dollars that go toward TV, search and digital video, according to an IAB report. Some digital media companies are building robust podcast operations that are main drivers of their business. The Ringer, helmed by Bill Simmons, has 28 podcasts and is reported to have done more than $15 million in revenue, mostly from podcast ads. Vox Media, which has a network of 75 podcast shows, also has an eight-figure podcasting business, according to Axios. The market for podcasts was recently validated by Spotify’s $340 million worth of deals to buy Gimlet, maker of popular podcasts, and podcast creation and hosting service Anchor.
“You’re seeing an acceleration of podcasts as a content medium; there’s way more awareness among consumers,” Nardini said. “Our ambitions in podcasts are very big.”
While podcasts are expanding into narrative formats, Barstool mostly sticks to a talk radio approach. Barstool podcasts typically has a small number of people on each podcast — for instance, there are four people on “Pardon My Take” including the two hosts — while the crew makes use of other parts of Barstool’s infrastructure including talent booking, promotions and merchandise. (The podcasts are separate from Barstool’s 12-hour live radio channel on Sirius, which consists of exclusive programming made for the channel.)
“We’re very talent-driven,” said Nardini. “[The podcast hosts] play an extremely active role in these podcasts. As a result, the podcasts are more personal, which is more compelling.”