(Bloomberg) -- The National Basketball Association is developing a slate of original podcasts about the league’s greatest moments and players, part of a new deal with IHeart Media Inc., the largest radio station owner in the U.S.
The NBA and IHeart will collaborate on the shows, with the San Antonio-based radio giant handling the production, distribution and advertising sales, according to a statement Wednesday. In addition to its radio stations, IHeart operates one of the largest networks of podcasts in the U.S.
The NBA believes podcasts can help it reach a new audience, and lure more casual fans to watch games. Viewership of the NBA has slipped from its pre-pandemic heights. The audience for the most recent season was down about 25% from 2019. But the league has been one of the best at turning its players into global celebrities.
“We’ve been looking for the right partner to help bring our archives to life,” said David Denenberg, a senior vice president in charge of distribution and business affairs at the NBA’s entertainment arm. “We have tons of audio footage that’s never seen the light of day.”
The NBA has been dabbling in podcasting for a couple of years, and helped produce an audio companion to the popular documentary series “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls. The league has been an early adopter of many popular new media services, forging deals with YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat. About 80 million people listen to a podcast every week in the U.S., up 17% from a year ago.
IHeart and the NBA are in the process of formalizing their first slate of shows, which they plan to announce in the coming months. The lineup may include daily programs, as well as limited series running about 10 episodes. IHeartMedia owns the podcast “HowStuffWorks” and has discussed making something similar that explains basketball to casual fans.
There are already dozens of NBA podcasts, and the most popular sports podcaster, Bill Simmons, follows the NBA more closely than any other professional league.
Yet the NBA isn’t interested in talk podcasts, which make up the bulk of such shows. Instead, the 75-year-old league thinks its vault of recordings about players and historical moments will make it stand out.
“The NBA has an ability to drive culture beyond just sports in a way a lot of leagues are envious of,” said Conal Byrne, chief executive officer of IHeartmedia’s digital audio group. “We’ve had our eye on this league for a while to help it ramp up faster into podcasting.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.