Why New Heights Is a Top Podcast By Andy Meadows

I understand why some would look at the success of Jason and Travis Kelce’s sports podcast New Heights and assume that it’s only successful because the younger brother is dating a pop superstar, they’re two future NFL hall-of-famers and the older one starred in a documentary last season while the younger one stars in seemingly every other TV commercial. I’m not here to argue that all of those things haven’t created a ton of buzz that drives eyes and ears to their weekly show. But, all of that stuff only helps to get people to tune in or watch one or maybe two times. When listening to the show with a discerning ear it’s clear that the Kelce brothers are doing a lot of things right and that’s why the show has become the #1 sports podcast weeks running and one of the top overall podcasts in the world right now. Here are a few of those things they’re doing well and some lessons we can learn from them.

Well defined roles. Whether by design or just because of their family dynamic, from the onset they followed the first rule of establishing a successful team show, defining and understanding their roles. Jason is the host of the show, plans most of it out, leads the majority of the content, keeps the show focused throughout and still manages to be his loveable, funny self. Travis is the co-host helping to move content forward without derailing while interjecting funny comments and his incredibly likeable personality. 

They’ve stolen a page from radio and included features and benchmarks. Also, from the onset they incorporated regular features that they do at roughly the same time in every show creating structure, adding an anchor of familiarity for the regular listener and giving multiple sponsors something to own.  These named segments also tend to generate a handful of bite size clips perfect for sharing on social.

They relate to a wide range of people. Both of them are very comfortable in their own skin and come across as real, genuine people and that’s something everyone can relate to. Plus, they’re at different stages in their life, Jason is a family man who can talk about parenting and marriage while Travis is of course dating one of the world’s most famous people. It also doesn’t hurt that Jason’s wife (who joins them occasionally) seems to be a down to Earth, cool mom that’s very funny in her own right. All of this allows them to relate in one way or another to virtually anyone who chooses to listen.

They talk about way more than football. It’s easy for two veteran athletes to fall into the trap of talking about the minutia of the sport they’re clearly experts in. But, getting that granular would only appeal to a very small percentage of podcast audiences who are really into football. While they do recap their games, that’s only a small portion of the show and they typically do those recaps in a way that everyone listening can understand. Now that they’re aware many Swiftie’s have started listening they’ve also added a ‘No Dumb Questions’ segment where fans can ask them even the most basic of Football questions without getting ridiculed. But, overall the Kelce’s do a great job talking about broader, more mass appeal topics that anyone, regardless of their profession, can relate to. Because of this their show is more inclusive than exclusive.

Since they’re brothers who appear to be good friends as well, they obviously have a lot of chemistry baked in and therefore they play off each other very well. That dynamic is a lot tougher to create with strangers or even people who have known each other for years but never worked together on a regular basis. That’s why it’s mission critical for team shows to spend a lot of time with each other initially in and outside of the studio so they can fast track the process of getting to know each other and build that chemistry.

They’re tailor made (no pun intended) for social media. They present themselves well, come across as in the know, their funny and create multiple organic moments within each show that are easy to turn into bite size clips to be used as reels (which is what seems to be working the best right now). This is hands down the fastest way to grow a podcast and would also work well for growing any new team show on the radio. Plus, it’s significantly easier than it used to be with some of the new AI tools that can turn any long form show into these shorter clips within seconds with little adjustment, if any, before posting.

As a life-long broadcaster I admit that I’m a little jealous when I see someone move into what I perceive as my territory and find success. But, rather than assuming they found that success because of the head start their fame afforded them I try and set my pride aside so I can review their show with an unbiased opinion. Which was especially hard in this circumstance because Jason Kelce is an Eagle and therefore a sworn enemy of this tortured Cowboy fan. However, after consuming multiple episodes it’s very clear to me that they know exactly what they’re doing and we could all learn something from their show about what’s working right now with broad audiences.

What do you think? Have you listened to ‘New Heights’ and if so, what are they doing right or wrong? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.

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