Barstool Sports is expeditiously growing in terms of its robust content and profound influence, continuing to cement itself as a globally-recognized digital media company. With its devoted audience of over 100 million fans and 183 million followers on social media, the brand has capitalized on the evolution of media as a whole to bring its consumers relevant and engaging content whether it be about sports, entertainment or pop culture. As the company celebrates its 20th anniversary, it garners an eminent position in the marketplace – most notably among the social media-driven millennials and Gen-Zers – and is reporting growth in nearly all categories. As a result of favorable ratings and increasing revenue through the generation of this content, the brand continues to attract advertisers to sponsor its wide assortment of multiplatform programming.
The brand originally started as a publication distributed throughout the city of Boston and its surrounding areas in 2003, largely discussing sports and the culture of betting and fantasy leagues. Four years later, it moved to the internet and began disseminating content to a broader audience, greatly expanding its initial reach. The Chermin Group then purchased a majority stake in the company in January 2016, resulting in the company’s move to new headquarters in New York City and, shortly thereafter, hiring Erika Nardini as its CEO.
In 2017, Barstool Sports held its first upfront event from its headquarters in which it told potential advertising partners and other investors about the future goals of the company. Nardini remembered feeling embarrassed about the unkempt condition of the space, but that did not stop the company from continuing its upward trajectory – one that continues today with a 3,650% rise in revenue over the last six years. It was made obvious Wednesday at the company’s 2022 Upfront, held from Webster Hall in New York City, with over 500 attendees and appearances from several of Barstool Sports’ hosts and contributors.
“There’s so much that has changed with Barstool Sports, but there’s even more that has stayed exactly the same,” Nardini said. “…I love this company; I love what we have built, and there’s no group of people out there who is more focused, dedicated and committed to growing for you.”
Nardini spoke on three pillars of brand advertising at the standing-room only event – reach, relevance and conversion – and affirmed that the brand is able to deliver them to partners, especially those looking to reach the 85% of its listeners in the 18-34 demographic. It is part of the reason why 92% of the company’s advertising partners renew their deals on a yearly basis and augment their yearly spending by 27%, giving the company the flexibility to be creative and try new things.
“Over the past two decades, digital media companies have come and gone… but Barstool is still here,” Nardini said. “We’re still innovating; we’re still growing; we’re still thriving; and most importantly we’re still making people laugh.”
Barstool Sports has received over 27 billion views on its visual content through the first eight months of the year, giving it as large of an audience as traditional media networks such as ESPN, CBS and NBC. The company, according to Nardini, is “misunderstood” through its modern approach to content creation, one that has allowed it to sustain and grow its annual market share.
“What’s different is that our audience feels differently about us, and they feel different because we are authentic,” Nardini communicated to attendees. “We are going to be authentic with your brand and we are going to extend that feeling from our brand to yours.”
The company has grown not only through its original content, but also through its emphasis on original merchandise and ability to move product. 58% of podcast listeners follow through and buy what is advertised to them through Barstool Sports podcasts, two times higher than the Nielsen average for purchase intent. Furthermore, the company was able to attest to it with over 1 million merchandise sales of its own over the last year on items such as t-shirts, hoodies, hats and other accessories.
While the brand’s audience is largely made up of males, there was an over-200% growth in the female audience over the last year, equating to one-third of its total audience. Additionally, the company is a top-five publisher on TikTok and creates content that compels their fans to build a sense of brand loyalty and, consequentially, patronize the sponsors endorsed by talent. There exists a definitive return on investment.
“We understand internet culture,” Nardini stated. “Everything is internet culture right now. We understand the internet in a way that no one else does, and we make content for the internet in a way no one else can.”
Barstool Sports has produced the number one sports podcast in the world since the launch of Pardon My Take in 2016, a production that rivals network shows such as Pardon the Interruption and First Take through its sports takes, high-profile interviews and often-satirical comments on sports and media at large. The show gained popularity through its critiques on sports media and different approach to interviewing, engendering guests to feel as if they have an ally in show hosts Dan “Big Cat” Katz, Eric Sollenberger (portraying “PFT Commenter”) and its producer Hank Lockwood.
“We want to see the real human; we want to talk to the person like they’re a real person,” Katz said. “We’ve always had the theory that we want every guest to want to come back, so we’re never trying to make it a bad experience. We want them to come back and enjoy it.”
“We’re kind of making fun of the media as we slowly become the media,” added Sollenberger. “….[The guests] understand how these pressure-packed interviews and ‘gotcha’ questions can make you feel like a fish out of water [and] they know we’re on their side.”
The podcast has been recorded and produced from New York City since its launch, but announced it will be moving to Chicago, Ill. As a part of the move, the team will reminisce on its time in “The Big Apple” through a new documentary while looking forward to moving to “The Windy City” complete with brand-new, custom-designed offices.
“I figure moving to Chicago is the perfect time to tell that story and fill people in on how we started while also showing the move to New York and getting us settled into that new Chicago office,” Lockwood said. “[It is] kind of like the past, the present and the future.”
Along with the move to Chicago, Sollenberger (PFT Commenter) will be starting a new show called Take Quake Thursdays in which he will discuss various storylines surrounding the National Football League. Additionally, he will reveal his weekly picks while giving and breaking down takes on the action to come.
Barstool Sports causes disruption in the marketplace through innovation, and it seeks to continue to do that through live events. Most of the company’s live events sell out within two minutes of tickets becoming available, and they range from live podcast recordings to larger sporting events. Over the next year, the company will look to make an extensive impact in that space, first through the launch of the Barstool Sports Invitational.
This inaugural early-season college basketball tournament will consist of four teams – the Akron Zips, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Toledo Rockets and University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers – and will take place on November 11 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Penn.
Just over one month later, the company will broadcast and produce the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, featuring Portnoy and other talent to cover the event from different perspectives, ones not commonly highlighted on a traditional broadcast. And if that’s not reason enough to tune in, Katz will be living up to his promise of jumping out of an airplane to commence the action.
“You see now with the ManningCast and second-stream options [and] we do a lot of live-streaming,” Katz said. “[We’re] putting them together…. We are the broadcast team [and it is] something totally different.”
Spittin’ Chiclets featuring Ryan Whitney, Paul Bissonnette, Rear Admiral and Mike Grinnell has been one of the top hockey podcasts in the marketplace and has utilized several sponsorship deals over the years to grow its brand. For example in 2019, the podcast became sponsored by New Amsterdam Vodka, which quickly released a new pink lemonade flavored vodka called “Pink Whitney.” Now, the show is partnering with Labatt Blue to create a beer venture called “Big Deal Brewing,” and hopes to release several new flavors as time goes on.
Additionally, the podcast will be an integral part of the company’s exclusive broadcast of the 49th annual charity hockey game between the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department from UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. on April 15. The matchup was broadcast on ESPN last year but will be streamed by Barstool for the first time with the hope that the platform gives the company the ability to tell a variety of different stories on the players and their daily lives.
“I have an affinity and a love for these guys,” Admiral said. “I’m very proud and it’s going to be awesome; it’s going to be 10 times better than ESPN.”
Barstool Sports also announced the launch of a new podcast featuring Los Angeles Lakers guard Patrick Bevereley, who frequently appeared on ESPN’s First Take throughout the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The show, eponymously-titled The Pat Beverley Podcast, will be co-hosted by Adam “Rone” Ferrone and will begin releasing episodes in October. It is the latest example of a growing trend of professional athletes moving into sports media while they are still active players looking to tell their own stories as part of the “new media.” Ferrone guaranteed that the show will be able to land Lakers forward LeBron James as a guest, and believes in the program’s growth trajectory.
“We’re going to be talking about players; we’re going to be talking about the Lakers,” Ferrone said. “We’re eventually going to figure it all out.”
The event also featured appearances from other podcasts and their personalities, including Fore Play, Rough N’ Rowdy and PlanBri Uncut. Additionally, members of Chicks in the Office, Mean Girl and The Yak spoke about the growth of their shows through live events and the creation of compelling and engaging online content.
“I think we want to keep crushing these live shows,” said Maria Ciuffo, co-host of Chicks in the Office and incoming co-host of Crush or Cash, a new show intertwining challenges in a battle for love and money. “When we get out there doing live shows, it’s like we’re meeting the people… [at] a party mixed with the show. We get on stage; we do shots; we sing; we dance. You’re really allowed to try out anything at Barstool because they give you that chance.”
Barstool Sports will be releasing various new types of reality programming to pair with its other content, including new competition-based shows such as Barstool’s Elite AthElite, Briality House and Dozen Xtreme. Barstool vs. America is another one of the offerings from the group which is entering its third season.
“I have a distinct pleasure of living in an RV with three of my male co-workers,” said Alex Bennett, co-host of Mean Girls and participant in Barstool vs. America. “The coolest thing about Barstool reality shows is that you get to see real, unfiltered, authentic people being themselves.”
“We are not tied to the network constraints,” added Jordan Woodruff, co-host of Mean Girls. “….It’s wild; it’s unfiltered; and we’re stretching far beyond what we’ve done now.”
Barstool founder Dave Portnoy closed out the event by talking about the brand’s quest to discover additions to the team and bring on the next generation of athletes and personalities to allow for the continued growth of the digital media company.
“There’s no real great magic to anything that we’ve built here,” Portnoy said. “….We look for talented people and we give them absolutely no direction…. We literally tell them – ‘Do whatever you want’ – and you can see how passionate they are about it.”
Portnoy launched “The Barstool Difference” during the COVID-19 pandemic to help small businesses in need and has continued the program, awarding $43 million in grants. Additionally, a tweet he put out following changes in NCAA rules allowing college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness resulted in the rapid formation of a network of Barstool Athletes, which consists of over 150,000 athletes from every state, division and school.
Though there have been many positives created by the Barstool founder, he acknowledged that there might be a few rocky days along the way. Despite those bumps in the road, Portnoy reminded the advertising community that the company has a stellar track record of being able to retain its advertising partnerships.
Barstool Sports plans to continue developing new ideas through its modern approach to media, penetrating boundaries in both sports and entertainment. Whether it is launching new podcasts, reality shows or “TwoYay,” a new proprietary platform to connect college athletes to advertisers, the brand strives to make an impact among those consumers ingrained in a contemporary lifestyle, centered around the ideas of disruption and innovation. Portnoy told the room before closing that the company has become a destination for young influential comedians, and because it has gained a reputation for being a desirable brand for content creators, others are aggressively trying to lure away their top stars.
“Everyone’s trying to raid us for talent,” Portnoy said. “All the ideas – most of what you’re seeing across the media landscape – it came through our walls…. We have cornered the market on crazy, creative people.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
John Skipper: Media Has Not Treated Adam Silver Like He’s Teflon
“I don’t think anyone has hesitated to criticize him when he has done things that are controversial or difficult. Certainly, our friends at FOX News have not provided him with a Teflon coating.”
Dan Le Batard hosted an interesting conversation on his Thursday show examining the performance of NBA commissioner Adam Silver during the press conference in which he announced the suspension of Suns owner Robert Sarver. David Samson and John Skipper joined Le Batard in the discussion.
Samson, former president of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, said of Silver “it’s amazing the level of Teflon he’s had, and I don’t know that it’s deserved in any way.” He added that the NBA commissioner’s performance was “not very well workshopped” when addressing the media.
John Skipper, co-founder of Meadowlark Media, acknowledged that the performance was not strong. He said that it was clear that Adam Silver was frustrated by the limitations his job put on what he could do about someone behaving in a way that he did not think was appropriate for the NBA. He did pushback on the idea that Silver had been immune from criticism.
“I’m not sure that I accept that he’s Teflon-like,” Skipper said. “He’s actually made most of the right decisions and done most of the right things and he’s gotten credit for that. I don’t think anyone has hesitated to criticize him when he has done things that are controversial or difficult. Certainly, our friends at FOX News have not provided him with a Teflon coating.”
Samson smiled during the answer, which Skipper addressed by acknowledging that Samson knows that Skipper is friends with Adam Silver. The Meadowlark boss called himself an “apologist” for Silver, but added
“I mostly think he’s done a fabulous job. If you want to hold up what commissioner has done most of the right things in the last seven or eight years, he’s not Teflon-coated, but he has a tremendous track record, which I think deserves our support.”
Chris Long Tells Jim Rome He’s Gambled on Games to Keep Him Interested For His Podcast
“So you’re like alright I need to do my job tonight, and I’m tired I want to go to bed, but maybe I’ll just throw a couple hundred bucks on the Jaguars,” Long said. “And now I’m invested…”
Placing bets on NFL games adds a whole other layer to the NFL viewing experience, and Super Bowl champion Chris Long understands that.
Long, who is not that far removed from his playing days in the league, was a guest on The Jim Rome Podcast, and said he initially considered gambling on football as something to compete at after retiring.
But now that he’s had some time to better learn the ins and outs of wagering, he’s become wiser and better informed. It’s helped him when talking about gambling on his own podcast, Green Light with Chris Long.
“I want to be responsible and give out good picks,” Long said. “I don’t want to just throw stuff out there because I’m getting paid by a casino. I’m really interested in the artform of gambling if that makes any sense.”
Long added that having that wagering itch definitely keeps him enthralled in watching football all day like a lot of other NFL fans, even those games people generally think won’t be that good competitively ahead of time.
He said it’s definitely helped with his show.
“I’m not even gonna lie, dude, sometimes you get burned out by football, right? I played it for a long time, now I’m covering it. So you’re like alright I need to do my job tonight, and I’m tired I want to go to bed, but maybe I’ll just throw a couple hundred bucks on the Jaguars,” Long said. “And now I’m invested and I can do my job more effectively because I’m gonna be glued to the TV. So like in a weird way it’s held me a little bit more accountable when it comes to staying on my game.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett News Media. He also works for ABC8 News and Newsradio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond, Virginia. His prior experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and iHeartradio Richmond. He can be reached by email at Jordan.E.Bondurant@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
Shams Charania Signs New Contracts to Remain with Stadium and The Athletic
Shams joined those outlets in 2018 and had agreed to two other deals with them in that span.
After speculation over his future, NBA insider Shams Charania is not going somewhere new.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported Wednesday night that Charania has signed new contracts to remain at Stadium/Bally Sports and The Athletic.
Shams joined those outlets in 2018 and had agreed to two other deals with them in that span.
“Shams has been an integral piece in the growth and evolution of Stadium, elevating our content across both digital media and television experiences,” said Stadium CEO Jason Coyle. “He is one of the finest professionals and people in our industry, and we are truly excited to continue building upon our longstanding and trusted relationship.”
Charania, 28, is an integral part of Stadium/Bally Sports NBA coverage. He makes regular appearances on the Sinclair-owned networks on shows like Inside the Association and The Rally.
Shams has not yet addressed the news on his Twitter account, which has 1.8 million followers.