Former NBA star Baron Davis is investing in Blue Wire, a sports podcast startup looking to capitalize on the rapid growth of audio storytelling.
Davis, who was part of a recent $1.2 million fundraising round, will become a brand ambassador for the company, helping to attract other athletes and influencers. He will also launch his own podcast company, called Slic, on Blue Wire’s network.
Amid a backdrop of protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Davis said he wants to provide a voice and platform for Black people. He turned down prior opportunities to launch his podcasts within larger companies, choosing instead to maintain intellectual property rights and creative control within Blue Wire.
“We should be thinking about the future of the media,” Davis said. “This is a new age. We’re building something from scratch for this generation.”
Podcasting has relatively low overheard and minimal start-up costs, and the payoff can be huge. In February, Bill Simmons sold podcast heavyweight The Ringer to Spotify in a cash deal worth $196 million. Barstool Sports’ recent $450 million valuation was also built largely off its podcasts.
Blue Wire’s market opportunity may also be its biggest hurdle. As podcasts have exploded in popularity, so have the number of big companies doing them. In addition to the Ringer, ESPN and Barstool, the Athletic recently launched its own network of more than 40 shows, and last week Axios reported that Amazon is considering investing in sports and localized podcast content for its Prime subscribers.
“They innovated,” Blue Wire Chief Executive Officer Kevin Jones said about those outlets. “They really did change the space. But we feel like there’s really another lane here to put together the best of the rest and be a partnership outlet for pro teams. If you’re a pro athlete you don’t have to run to ESPN anymore. At Blue Wire we can give you resources and help you build something special.”
In less than two years, Blue Wire has built a network of 90 shows and has more than a million actively monthly listeners. Jones said he’s working with Amazon, Spotify and Apple as partners to distribute their shows, which include a podcast co-hosted by sports power couple Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, and a number of local team-specific offerings.
Davis, who made $147 million over his 13-year NBA career, has become an investor, entrepreneur and media star in his second career. He was an early investor in Vitaminwater, and has developed several companies under his Baron Davis Enterprises banner. They include publications, premium films, animations, documentaries, TV shows and promotional content. As an actor, he’s also appeared in numerous films and television shows.
Launching Slic through Blue Wire will let Davis maintain ownership of the brand, a trend that’s becoming increasingly popular among athletes in their off-court pursuits.
One of the shows, The Point God Series, will focus on the best point guards in basketball history. Davis, who played point guard, said there are also plans for a show about entrepreneurs and investors as well as documentaries.