Before The Tennis Podcast became a successful hit series and go-to source for everything that’s going on in the world of tennis, it was costing the presenters money out of their own pockets for the first five years of producing it.
David Law, BBC sports commentator and co-founder of The Tennis Podcast, spoke to PodPod in the latest episode of the podcast on the financial struggles of creating his show when it first launched in 2012 and how the team eventually turned the situation around.
“I think the first five years of producing this show, we made no money at all; we lost money,” said Law. “It was straight out of our pockets in order to fund the show and my view was always let's see if we can build an audience, let's see if we can make a show that people enjoy, and if we can, then maybe we can figure out a way to get it sponsored.”
The Tennis Podcast first started to gain funding for the production of the show through crowdfunding, with three successful kickstarter campaigns running since 2017. This included over £50,000 raised by backers in 2019 to keep the show going, as well as give Law and his co-host and co-founder Catherine Whitaker enough money to hire their then-intern Matthew Roberts as a full-time member of the team.
However, Law says he eventually came to the conclusion that crowdfunding would not work on a long-term basis as it would be unfair to take money from the same people without offering anything additional. So, with the advice of the late co-host of The Cycling Podcast, Richard Moore and other co-host Lionel Birnie, Law decided to start a subscription service via Supporting Cast.
“They said, look, we think that if you provide something in addition to your regular show, people will be more likely to get behind it and you're not just constantly having to ask for more money, you're just providing a service and if people want it, they pay for it,” said Law. “And so that's what we did.”
The subscription system that The Tennis Podcast now offers is called Friends of The Tennis Podcast, which offers exclusive content to subscribers including friends-only Q&A podcasts, shout outs, bonus shows after Grand Slam tournaments, and more, while still keeping the regular episodes free of charge.
One piece of advice that Law has when it comes to building a monetisation strategy is “don’t sign up for anything you can’t deliver”, referencing an outside situation that he learned from in which another Kickstarter campaign promised to send out handwritten postcards to everyone who paid a certain amount and ended up regretting it. Instead, what works for The Tennis Podcast is adding options which are engaging yet simple - such as “pet mascots”.
”Yes, we will let you pay us to have your pet as our mascot and all that entails is us telling everybody on the podcast that your pet is our mascot, and we will put a picture of your pet in our newsletter that goes out on email. It's not a lot of work for us really,” said Law. “So we very much set out to make it as labour unintensive as possible.”