Feb 25, 2020 - Economy & Business

Scoop: Sports podcast upstart Blue Wire raises $1.2 million seed round

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Blue Wire, a new sports podcast company, has raised $1.2 million in a seed round, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Blue Wire is looking to build out long-form sports narrative podcasts. The company believes that while sports highlights will continue to be mostly viewed via short video clips, more long-form sports media consumption will eventually shift to podcasts from traditional radio and print.

Details: The seed round comes from Dot Capital, 500 Startups and some individual investors, including Prakash Janakiraman, co-founder and Chief Architect at NextDoor, and professional football player Deion Jones through his venture fund Forty5 Ventures.

  • The money will be used to expand the company's content studio, which builds, sells and markets sports podcasts for brands, teams and influencers.
  • The company is currently based in San Fransisco but will soon be relocating to New York City.
  • It's eyeing a Series A fundraising round in the near future and hopes to create a company that is modeled similarly to Gimlet, with both a podcast production studio as well as a network of its own podcasts.
  • Sources say that the company has already been in touch with bigger sports media companies about partnerships, but for now, it's looking to remain independent.

Blue Wire currently hosts popular local sports podcasts like Laker Film Room, Bronx Pinstripes and Light Years — as well as podcasts from local sports writers, like Nicole Yang, a sports writer for the Boston Globe, and Chris Biderman, 49ers reporter for the Sacramento Bee.

  • It also produces studio-grade content around long-form sports podcasts and audio documentaries. It works with local publishers, like the Las Vegas Review Journal, to build out their podcast capabilities around sports if they can't afford to produce them on their own.

The big picture: Spotify recently acquired The Ringer, a sports podcast company from ESPN personality Bill Simmons, for nearly $200 million. The Athletic began building a sports podcast business last year.

Reality check: The current podcast landscape, which is dominated by Apple and Spotify, makes it hard for any new podcast network to compete with big platforms directly.

  • Yes, but: "Big corporations may have the widest distribution, but that leaves room for nimble content producers to carve out their own section of the market," says Joe Saviano, Managing Director at DOT Capital, which participated in the round.
  • "Podcasts are evolving into a medium that consumes more of consumers' time. When the market expands, there will be room for other players, and I think Blue Wire's strategy of going after newer, emerging voices and cultivating them is smart."

Be smart: The sports podcasting space has become more crowded over the past few years, with digital upstarts like Barstool Sports, The Ringer, The Athletic and SB Nation, in addition to TV sports giants like Fox Sports and ESPN, all launching new podcasts and podcast networks.

  • Blue Wire is hoping to distinguish itself by investing in diverse podcast voices, particularly women and minorities.
  • "There are so many unique sports voices that are undervalued and under-appreciated," says Blue Wire co-founder and CEO Kevin Jones in a phone call with Axios.

What's next: Jones says the company is hoping to bank seven figures in revenue in 2020 and thinks that the company will hit 200 podcasts by the end of the year.

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