Sports Illustrated has struck a deal with iHeartMedia to stake a bigger claim in podcasting. The multiyear agreement will see the co-production of at least eight new original podcasts while the iHeartPodcast Network will pick up distribution duties for Sports Illustrated’s existing podcasts. There are also mutual marketing and promotion commitments between the two companies for all joint projects.
“We are thrilled to partner with Sports Illustrated to introduce a brand-new slate of sports podcasts – limited series and ongoing shows alike, distributed to listeners everywhere,” said Conal Byrne, CEO of iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group. “It’s an iconic brand that sports fans instantly trust, knowing that they will get the most credible and in-depth industry coverage, and we look forward to expanding that footprint into the audio space through the iHeartPodcast Network, where we uniquely have the reach and scale to bring Sports Illustrated the audience and monetization they deserve.”
Two of the eight original podcasts are scheduled to launch by the first quarter of 2022. The companies say the Sports Illustrated label will be used on editorial-focused content and analysis-based shows from the franchise. Other podcasts will come from Sports Illustrated Studios offering scripted and limited series content. Launched last year as a partnership between Sports Illustrated and 101 Studios, SI Studios is a media production company that develops, produces, and distributes long-form film, television, and audio sports-related content.
“While traditionally sports are very visually focused, this venture allows us to introduce audiences to the most memorable events in sports history in unexpected ways, which is precisely the foundation of SI Studios,” said David Hutkin, COO of 101 Studios.
Set to debut later this year, Sports Illustrated Weekly will be a weekly podcast that will feature the best of Sports Illustrated’s journalism in a premium audio magazine. The companies say each 45-minute episode will feature deep-dive segments on the biggest news of the week and the most compelling personalities, trends and themes in sports, on and off the field.
Another show on the drawing board at SI Studios is called Lateral Damage. It will offer an unique take on the true-crime genre. Publishing early next year, the podcast tells the story of University of California-Berkeley college football player Mariet Ford, who was convicted of viciously murdering his young son and pregnant wife. Maintaining his innocence for almost 25 years, the podcast will explore the indelible effect the murder has had on the core group of people in Ford’s sphere.
“Storytelling is at the core of what SI stands for, and the opportunity to partner with iHeartMedia to create and distribute dynamic stories and shows featuring our incredible voices further expands our footprint,” said Sports Illustrated CEO Ross Levinsohn in a statement.
Sports Illustrated currently reaches more than 50 million monthly visitors across all of its integrated site channels.
Sports podcasts are a growing part of the iHeartPodcast Network. The company announced in April that it had signed an exclusive multiyear podcast partnership with the National Football League. The deal includes the distribution of seven series already launched by the league, as well as the co-production and distribution of two dozen new original podcasts.