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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.

Go deeper

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

Updated 54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Smaller than expected "Justice for J6" rally met with large police presence

Police officers watch as demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A few hundred demonstrators were met by a heavy law enforcement presence on Saturday at the "Justice for J6" rally outside the fenced-off U.S. Capitol, AP reports.

The latest: Four people were arrested at the rally, including one person with a gun, one with a knife and two with outstanding warrants, per the U.S. Capitol Police.

DHS to increase deportation flights to Haiti from Del Rio

Migrants walk across the Rio Grande River carrying supplies back to a makeshift encampment under the international bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Acuña, Mexico. Officials are struggling to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation, forcing migrants to cross the Rio Grande several times per day for basic necessities. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Saturday announced plans to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti out of the small Texas border town Del Rio, starting as soon as Sunday.

Why it matters: Reports have emerged of more than 10,000 migrants, primarily from Haiti, crowded in a temporary camp under the international bridge in Del Rio. Hoping to find refuge in the United States, they've had to bear with filthy conditions and the scorching sun for days, per an NBC News affiliate.