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Insider: April 2, 2021 — Meadowlark raises $12.6M, The Rise of the Athlete-Podcaster, Serial Box rebrand

Meadowlark, the new media company co-founded by former ESPN star Dan Le Batard, raises funds.From Sportico: “Meadowlark, the new media company founded by ESPN veterans John Skipper and Dan Le Batard, has raised $12.6 million from an investor group that includes DraftKings, former Sony chairman Michael Lynton, and Ares Capital, an arm of the asset management firm co-founded by Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler.”

As a reminder, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz was a very valuable piece in ESPN’s audio portfolio, both in podcast and broadcast radio formats, and one of the more intriguing aspects of Le Batard’s departure was the fact he was able to take the RSS feed for his podcast as part of his exit package.

News of this fundraise comes not long after Meadowlark Media announced its first non-Le Batard project: an interview podcast featuring Hank Azaria reprising his role as Jim Brockmire, the title character from the IFC comedy Brockmire.

Honestly, never saw that show. I think the only IFC properties I’ve seen are Portlandia and Documentary Now. I guess I’m a Fred Armisen guy?Speaking of Fred Armisen…From Variety: “Spotify is unleashing three original comedy podcasts, including a high-concept scripted show from ‘Saturday Night Live’ alum Fred Armisen.” And speaking of sports…The Athlete-Podcaster. Are you telling me that Hua Hsu wrote a piece situating the on-going rise of the athlete podcast genre as part of a broader story about race and power? Yessirrrr.

From the New Yorker:

In the past, if athletes wanted to speak candidly, they would write a tell-all book, do a sit-down interview, maybe phone in to a radio show. If they aspired to work in media, they would try to land a cushy network job, providing expert commentary or analysis. But the Internet, which allows any of us to air the slightest thought, has changed those rules. Players have grown infatuated with sharing their perspectives in real time, in direct, unfiltered ways…

… In the past, this kind of mediation was handled mostly by journalists. That arrangement could be mutually beneficial for reporters (who sought access) and players (who wanted to protect their images). But there was always a tension thrumming in the background. Generations of Black athletes witnessed firsthand how they could be misread simply for having tattoos, wearing certain clothes, or speaking in ways that the media deemed inarticulate.

It’s really well worth your time — if only for the brisk accounting of the many athlete podcasts out there — but if there’s one point of analysis I wished there was more on, it’s the actual mechanics of the business side of these enterprises. To begin with, I’m interested to know more about the hit rate and viabilities of the many shows within this genre, and secondarily, I think there’s an intriguing difference in power between athlete-led show published by companies owned by the athlete themselves — see: Kevin Durant, JJ Redick — versus those published by larger media companies not owned by the athlete, in which case some of the original power dynamic is left undisturbed.Serial Box rebrands, now pursues free podcast strategy.From Variety: “After more than five years, Serial Box is jettisoning its name: The episodic audio-fiction company is rebranding as Realm — and simultaneously expanding its business model to release original shows as free, ad-supported podcasts.”

Might unpack this more on Tuesday.Commerce watch. Glossy asks, “Are podcast hosts the next beauty founders?” The question can probably also be flipped: are beauty founders the next podcast hosts? The answer is presumably yes, if it hasn’t happened already.Some Canadians tell me…STORYHIVE, a Western Canadian granting body, is doing their first podcast edition. They just awarded 16 creators $10,000 to make their dream podcast. As part of this money they also receive a bunch of training which Kelly&Kelly is handling. You can read more about it here and here.”Brouhaha Watch.

  • From VICE: “Everyone Loves the McElroys, So Why Is Everyone Mad at the McElroys?” The piece is slightly confusing, but I suppose this is something to clock if you’re monitoring fan/following community dynamics.
  • The situation at The Joe Budden Podcast remains ongoing. From HotNewHipHop: “Joe Budden Reveals He & “JBP” Co-Host Rory Are Going To Therapy.”

Indie watch.From The Michigan Daily: “‘Sounds fake but okay’ podcast shows what it’s like to uplift the asexual community.” The show is now 176 episodes strong, and is said to have a Discord community that’s over 1000 member-large.Apple invests in a platform aimed at supporting independent musicians.From the Wall Street Journal: “The tech giant led a $50 million fundraising round for UnitedMasters, a three-year-old artist-services company that helps musicians distribute and market their music while allowing them to keep their copyrights.”

By now, you should internalize that whatever happens on the music side intimately affects whatever happens on the podcast side, and this development is interesting as it pertains to the balance of power between Spotify, Apple, and other audio streaming platforms jostling for position in the distribution business.

Two germane details to note: firstly, existing investors in UnitedMasters includes Andreessen Horowitz and Alphabet, and secondly, as Insider points out, this is the first time Apple has led a funding round since backing the Chinese ride-sharing company Didi in 2017. Investments by Apple are also said to be a relatively rare phenomenon, though this did remind me about that one time in 2018 when the Financial Times reported that the tech giant explored buying a stake in iHeartMedia.Show Notes.

  • Renegades, the Obama-Springsteen pod, ends its run this week. TBD on whether there’ll be future seasons.
  • Crushed, a new series “reckoning with Major League Baseball’s Steroid Era” from PRX and Religion of Sport, debuted this week.
  • Also making its debut this week: Dark Air with Terry Carnation, a new scripted podcast distributed by the Audioboom Originals Network, which features Rainn Wilson in the title role, itself a reprise of the character that popped up in the framing interstitials for Radio Rental, the horror podcast from Tenderfoot TV.
  • CNN Audio — which has been expanding recently, it seems — recently announced that it’s releasing a series about the history of late night, called Behind the Desk, later this month, on April 22.

Revolving Door. Got a new job? Tell me — would love to Let The People Know.