‘Let’s Bring Women In:’ Chargers Lean Into Podcast For Female Fans

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  • NFL female game viewership rose 6% during the first 10 weeks of the 2019 season. That's better than the 5% boost for male viewers.
  • The league's growing female fan base can listen to a growing number of podcasts by and for women football fans.
The NFL's female viewership is up 6% this season. More teams like the Los Angeles Chargers are offering podcasts by and for female football fans.
Chargers Team Reporter Hayley Elwood. Photo Credit: LA Chargers

The NFL’s female viewership is up 6% this season. That’s more than the league’s 5% growth in male viewers. 

Teams like the Los Angeles Chargers are making moves to target the league’s fast-growing female fan base.

When the Chargers decided to double the number of its podcasts during the 2019 season, team reporter Hayley Elwood came up with an idea. 

Why not have a football podcast for and by women? Elwood got the green light,and she was off and running with her new podcast dubbed, “Playmakers.

Elwood’s goal with “Playmakers” is simple: Give often ignored female football fans a “voice” in the daily football conversation.

“Let’s bring women in,” she said. “Let’s make them feel invited to the sports cycle without making it seem like you’re pandering.”

This season, she’s interviewed NFL reporters such as Erin Andrews of Fox Sports, Tracy Wolfson of CBS Sports, Colleen Wolfe and MJ Acosta of NFL Network and Lindsay Jones of The Athletic. 

She has also looked to shine a spotlight on women who are involved in the sport beyond journalism. 

Elwood interviewed Allison Miner, the team’s assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist, about being one of seven female athletic trainers in the NFL.

She also sat down with Gabriella Watt, wife of Chargers fullback Derek Watt, about being part of a royal football family that includes brother-in-law J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.

“We’re just kind of finding unique storylines and highlighting women,” Elwood said. “Being a woman, and being able to do it with an authentic voice, was really important to me.”

The Chargers Podcast Network started with just one pod, “Chargers Weekly,” back in 2017. The following year the team added “Backstage.”

This season, they added “Playmakers,” hosted by Elwood, and “The Final Drive,” co-hosted by Elwood and fellow Chargers team reporter Chris Hayre.

Elwood and Hayre have booked big-name guests like Jim Nantz and James Brown of CBS, Adam Schefter and Pat McAfee of ESPN and Michael Vick and Shannon Spake of Fox. 

Since Sep. 1, 2019, the four pods have generated 200,000 downloads. They’re also used as pregame shows on AM 570 in Los Angeles, according to Hayre.   

The Chargers were ahead of the curve with their football podcast for women.

The Kansas City Chiefs are planning a female-focused podcast, along with another focusing on Patrick Mahomes’ high-powered offense, according to Mike Cukyne, the Chiefs’ vice president of content and digital operations. They’ll mark the Chiefs’ fifth and sixth new pods this season.  

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There’s also “The Football Girl” podcast hosted by Melissa Jacobs, founder and managing editor of TheFootballGirl.com. The “mission” of the independent podcast is to “spotlight prominent women under the NFL umbrella,” explained Jacobs on her show. 

Jacobs has interviewed everybody from Mina Kimes and Sarah Spain of ESPN to former Oakland Raiders executive Amy Trask and NFL agent Nicole Lynn of Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter’s Young Money APAA Sports. 

NFL beat writer Jones, meanwhile, co-hosts The Athletic’s “NFL Power Rankings Podcast” with Amy Parlapiano. She likes getting the chance to discuss topics important to women in the NFL: motherhood, work/life balance and the challenge of being a female in a male-dominated business.

“I just think it’s cool that there are a lot more options now. But I hope it’s not just women that are listening,” Jones said. “It’s important to target things for female football fans. I hope that men are listening too. Not just seeing female names and avoiding those podcasts.”

There’s a big potential target for these podcasts. During the first 10 weeks of the 2019 NFL season, game telecasts averaged 5.6 million female viewers, up 6% from 5.3 million during the same point last season, according to NFL spokesman Andrew Howard. 

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Male viewership, meanwhile, increased 5% to an average of 16 million per game from 15.2 million during the comparable period last year.

During the week ending No. 17, the Top 5 most-watched shows for women aged 18-49 years old were all NFL game telecasts, according to Michael Mulvihill, Fox’s executive vice president and head of strategy.