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Sports Startup Inflection Network Links With iHeart; Hires ESPN Radio Veteran As Head.

Inflection Network, a new sports podcast network from renowned sports journalist Michael Smith and veteran entertainment attorney Terrence Williams, has struck a new alliance with iHeartMedia. Under the deal, the new network will develop a slate of shows beginning with a new season of Comeback Stories, the podcast that features New York Giants tight end Darren Waller and mindfulness coach Donny Starkins.

"We are thrilled to embark on this new journey with iHeartPodcasts," Williams and Smith said in a joint statement. "With the help of iHeart’s unmatched expertise and platform, we are building a robust content slate and what I believe will be an enjoyable and unique listening experience."

Things get rolling on a positive note as Comeback Stories launch a third season. On the podcast Walker and Starkins will continue to spotlight real-life tales of resiliency including insight into the hosts’ ongoing recovery journeys and interviews with guests whose stories illustrate a broad spectrum of “comeback” stories.

“We partnered with Inflection Network because they saw our potential and how intentional we are in our mission of impacting others,” Waller said. “Our work aligns directly with IN's vision statement.”

New Role For ESPN Audio Veteran

Inflection Network will be led by Charita Johnson, who Williams calls “the backbone of this initiative.” Johnson is a veteran sports media executive who spent 26 years at ESPN, including serving as VP of Audio from 2014 to 2016 and in 2011. During her time at ESPN Johnson also developed and produced Smith’s His & Hers podcast during its three-year run. More recently Johnson was VP of Content Strategy at Peloton Interactive and a Senior Content Director at NASCAR.

“Standing up this portfolio of podcasts has been extremely rewarding,” Johnson said. “I’ve been intentional about who and what deserves to be under the IN umbrella. The stories that we’re telling reflect the audience we wish to attract. I’m really proud that there’s something for everyone.” Johnson most recently has been operating his own talent agency Johnson Bridge Media.

All the shows created by the Inflection Network will be distributed by iHeartPodcasts. The podcasts will join Michael Smith’s existing shows in collaboration with NBC Sports, including “Brother From Another” on Peacock and Smith’s new solo NBC Sports podcast project, “My Main Man Michael Smith.”

First Original Series About Fantasy Football

Later this month, Inflection Network will debut its first original podcast when it drops the fantasy football podcast called “Michael Smith presents The Dynasty Exchange” just in time for the kickoff of the 2023 football season.

Hosted by dynasty diehards Dylan Egloff, Davis Nuaimi and Josh Walsh, the show will also feature regular appearances from longtime fantasy football analyst Smith with new episodes released every Tuesday and Friday. The creators say the new show will deliver dynasty team owners the fantasy football insight, tips and strategies listeners need to stay ahead of the game when it comes to building and sustaining perennial championship contenders.

“IN’s approach is guided by inspiring and transformative power-rich storytelling and authentic, entertaining and thought-provoking conversation," Smith said in a statement. "We want to elevate and empower creatives; amplify diverse voices and perspectives; and enlighten, entertain and engage our audience. At IN our mantra is, ‘Louder for the folks in the back!’“

Inflection Network is also working to expand its podcast slate with projects from sports personalities including Ibtihaj Muhamma, entrepreneur, author, and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in fencing who in 2016 became widely known for being the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in her hijab. It is also working with LoLo Jones, world-champion hurdler and bobsledder, and one of the few athletes to compete in a Summer and Winter Olympics; and Spencer Paysinger, seven-year NFL veteran, Super Bowl XLVI champion and producer of CW’s hit series “All-American” which was loosely based on his life.

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