In life after NFL and ESPN, Tucker builds football podcast business
Ross Tucker played seven seasons in the NFL as a journeyman offensive lineman, but when he retired in 2008 he was not yet 30 years old and knew he needed to do something else. He started by dabbling in writing at SI.com — “I went to Princeton, so I had to write all kinds of long papers on Machiavelli. I figured I could write a thousand words on the NFL, right?” he says — which led him to ESPN to write some more. In 2010 he got a new opportunity: The chance to host his own podcast.
Tucker didn’t even know what a podcast was, but he quickly accepted. It’s safe to say he got the hang of it pretty fast. In fact, Tucker, 39, has now become one of the industry’s best examples of someone who has made being a podcast host and owner his primary business.
After leaving ESPN in 2013 he launched RT Media, which has five football-related podcasts. He is host or co-host of four of them: the “Ross Tucker Football Podcast,” “Fantasy Feast: Eatin’,” “The College Draft" and “Even Money,” while former Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt hosts “The Business of Sports.” Tucker works with PodcastOne on ad sales and on his website, www.rosstucker.com, he promotes his sponsors, including Dollar Shave Club, SeatGeek, Shari’s Berries and Saxx Underwear.
“It’s very successful as a business, a significant portion of my income,” said Tucker, while refusing to disclose financials. “That’s a huge priority for me to grow and promote the podcast. Because the way the economics of it work is the more listeners you have, then the more advertising dollars you’ll be able to have, and you’ll be able to command better rates.”
During the season, Tucker makes frequent guest appearances on local sports-talk stations across the country, which gives him the chance to mention his podcasts to increase the size of his audience. His other media roles include hosting “The Morning Kickoff” on SiriusXM’s NFL channel, doing color commentary on Ivy League games for NBC Sports Network, calling Westwood One syndicated NFL games as an analyst or sideline reporter, and appearing as a regular guest on Philadelphia sports station WIP.
“It’s awesome, but I don’t have any control over those jobs,” Tucker said. “Every year it’s up to those bosses as to what my contract status is. Whereas a podcast, it’s the only thing in sports media you can own. A lot of guys work for ESPN, a lot of guys work for NFL Network. Those are great companies, but you don’t have any ownership.”
Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.