Local television powerhouse Tegna bought the Locked On Podcast Network for $13.8 million in January. The already-profitable sports podcast company is quickly becoming more than a side venture in audio for Tegna, which is beginning to lay out its plans for how Locked On will fit into its TV and video-focused portfolio.
“The monetization opportunity around Locked On which is currently profitable, is much bigger than Locked On itself,” said CEO Dave Lougee. “It is a first step of a digital sports strategy for us in the local space where we see a tremendous amount of white space and having hyper-local digital operations around content, and potentially sports gambling content and data, and across multiple platforms. This gives us an instant major foot in the door.”
Video is where the combination of the two companies is having the biggest impact to date. Twenty Locked On shows are now available on YouTube including Locked On NFL, Locked On NBA, Locked On Big Ten, Locked On Fantasy Basketball as well as podcasts for the major NFL and NBA franchises.
“We will be rapidly expanding almost into every market where we have a Locked On presence,” said Lougee. “You’ll see us expanding our Locked On college presence as well.”
Since Locked On’s YouTube channel debuted earlier this year, it has generated more than 160,000 total hours of watching time and more than one million video views. Lougee said the YouTube channel also averaged more than ten minutes per play in June. “Which is a long time in the digital world,” he noted during a conference call Monday.
Tegna Chief Digital Officer Adam Ostrow has said that YouTube is also bringing in new audiences with nearly 52% of that audience being younger than 35. He also said that 20% of Locked On’s total watch time comes from connected TVs and video game consoles. The Locked On YouTube channel has about 1.88 million subscribers.
Locked On’s podcasts are focused on local teams in cities across the country, and that is also helping Tegna extend its reach. “We’re in markets all over the country including markets where Tegna is not in,” said Lougee. “We have New York Jets shows and San Francisco 49ers shows in markets we are not in.”
Tegna has also begun making Locked On podcasts available immediately on select local Tegna TV stations’ Roku and Amazon Fire TV OTT apps and YouTube properties in their respective market. And in the coming months Tegna says the Locked On podcasts will be available on all stations’ streaming properties leveraging its portfolio of 64 TV stations in 51 markets.
How those assets will work together got a high profile showcase last month when Locked On teamed with WFAA-TV Dallas to co-produce the Locked On NBA Draft 2021 special. It was hosted by John Karalis (Locked On NBA and Locked On Celtics), Chad Ford (Chad Ford’s NBA Big Board) and Rafael Barlowe (Locked On NBA Draft). The special was produced at WFAA-TV’s studios and featured local Locked On team podcast hosts for expert analysis of draft picks. In addition to the show’s availability on Locked On NBA’s YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed, it was available to stream on Tegna local TV stations’ OTT apps for Roku and Fire TV, mobile apps and websites. The nearly six-hour livestream has had nearly 62,000 views on YouTube to date.
In a separate project, Locked On has launched the Locked On HBCU podcast focused on sports, athletes and stories from America’s Black colleges. It is hosted by Equity Media’s talk WBOK New Orleans (1230) sports personality Reggie Flood and will feature correspondents across the HBCU landscape, including Tegna’s TV on-air and sports talent.
Locked On HBCU is now part of a slate of more than 180 sports podcasts from the company, most focused on specific local teams. Locked On said its podcasts were downloaded more than 80 million times in 2020.