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Despite Cuts Elsewhere, Locked On Says The Local Podcast Model ‘Is Thriving.’

Sports podcasting is crowded and competitive, not unlike the subject matter on which it is focused. The team at the Locked On Podcast Network says it’s also healthier than what it may appear after Vox Media last week announced it was splitting with a dozen podcasts focused on local teams. It followed similar cuts at The Athletic last year. “The local sports podcast model is thriving,” says Locked On.

The Tegna-owned sports podcast company says in a LinkedIn post that while it is never a good thing to see fellow sports podcasters lose jobs or see shows cancelled, it also believes the recent moves by other companies may leave the impression that the local sports podcast model is challenged. Just the opposite is true, Locked On says. It says the space is bigger than ever, still growing dramatically, providing a viable outlet for local hosts to reach their audience, and returning amazing results for our advertisers.”

Launched with a single show in 2016, Locked On today features daily 30-minute podcasts for more than 200 NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and major college teams with nearly 300 local hosts and team experts. Last year it had 300 million listens and views of its episodes. And it predicts it will grow again this year.

“Locked On, the once-little sports podcast network that started with just one show out of Park City, Utah, is thriving, perhaps at the expense of our competitors,” it says. “But, make no mistake, the local sports podcast category is one of the strongest segments in the podcast business.”

Locked On says in the post that it believes one of the reasons its business model has been more successful than some others is because it has been focused on delivering daily podcasts for all the teams it covers.

“Sports fans are fans of their teams not just year-round but every day. Furthermore, as listeners and viewers migrate from mature forms of media, such as terrestrial sports radio, they are looking for a daily replacement for their new listening habits,” it says.

Locked On also says that its model of bundling local sports podcasts together into a national network for ad sales works, with ad sales growing. In addition to dynamically-inserted host-read ads, Locked On has been able to capitalize on its cross-sport focus in a market. That means, for instance, that it can combine the Dallas reach across podcasts focused on the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers, Stars, Horned Frogs, Longhorns, and Aggies and present local advertisers a more substantial reach number.

“To be fair, scaling a local sales model across more than 75 markets is challenging. Fortunately, we are having such strong results selling our network nationally, we don’t need to clear a lot of inventory locally,” it says.

Locked On also credits having a consistent lineup – two-thirds of its hosts have been with the network for more than three years – as well as innovation. That has meant being an early adopter to shorter, daily episodes, and embracing the idea of putting its shows on YouTube. It says it is now “moving aggressively” into OTT with FAST TV and video-on-demand distribution on platforms such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

“We practice a bottom-up philosophy for product development,” it says. “Our listeners will tell us what they want and how they want to follow us and we will cater our product to them. In doing so, our network and our advertisers will be winners too.”

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