The NHL is looking to continue to invest in the highly lucrative podcast market with the league announcing its podcast lineup for the2019-20 season this past Thursday. Three shows are returning NHL Fantasy on Ice, NHL Executive Suite, and the NHL Draft Class. There is one new show adding to their lineup called NHL @TheRink.
Podcasts have taken over the audio medium in recent years and in 2018 the estimated total revenue in the United States was $479.1 million. The trendline of podcast growth has been staggering, and according to a report by PWC, the industry is forecast to grow to over $1 billion by 2021. With that type of ceiling, it’s not hard to see why the NHL is investing more resources into the space.
This is the NHL’s second year in the podcast space after making its podcast debut in the 2018-19 season. One of the concerning problems that face the sport of hockey is the aging of their average fans. In 2000, the average age of hockey fans per Sports Business Journal was 33 years old. In 2006, it was 42 years old, and then in 2016, the average age was 49 years old.
Now, to be fair, most of the major sports leagues face this problem of aging. But the push into the podcast space is an attempt to reach younger audiences. Forty-five percent of podcast listeners are 34 years old or younger. For the NHL going full throttle into this space is a no-brainer and a way to reach a younger affluent audience.
NHL Has Stiff Competition in Podcast Space
There is some stiff competition that the NHL podcast network will have to go up against. Currently, the No. 1 hockey podcast on both iTunes and Spotify is Spittin’ Chiclets that features former NHLers Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette.
But the NHL has put a solid product out, NHL Fantasy on Ice is the 67th-ranked sports podcast on Spotify in Canada and on iTunes hovers around being a top-200 podcast in both Canada and the United States. Fans have rated the show 4.8 stars out of 5 as well. As for NHL Executive Suite, the show current sits on iTunes as the 950th-ranked sports podcast in the United States and 731 in Canda. The third and final show entering its second season, NHL Draft Class, is right up there with NHL Fantasy on Ice, in Canda, it is the 124th-ranked podcast on iTunes.
NHL @ TheRink has debuted as the No. 28 hockey podcast in the United States and No. 7 in Canda. The show is hosted by NHL.com’s Dan Rosen and is a weekly production that takes a look around the league. Rosen has racked up an impressive guest list as well with Ben Bishop, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, and others already debuting on the program.
More Hockey Talk in the Digital Space
The benefit to hockey fans in listening to the NHL-driven podcasts is the access those shows have to the top talent in the league. The downside, of course, is you are potentially going to be listening to a biased take on the events of the week.
For many hockey fans across the United States, there is a real lack of discussion of the sport on the average sports radio station. Sure in certain markets it is fairily prevalent but from a wide scope, it’s not given the coverage it deserves. Some sports talk shows like Felger and Mazz in Boston have championed hockey talk on the radio but the average show doesn’t dedicate an hour or more to the sport.
That’s where podcasts come in, for hockey fans being able to play a podcast and listen to non-stop puck talk for 90 minutes is the way to go to get their dose of the latest news and stories. Overall a smart decision by the NHL that only benefits hockey fans with more content to consume in an accessible manner.
Tanner covers the business of hockey of The Hockey Writers in addition to running his own New England sports website, Trifecta Sports.