A-Rod is teaming up with Barstool Sports.
The sports blog is launching “The Corp,” a seven-part podcast series co-hosted by former baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez and Dan Katz, better known as “Big Cat,” co-host of Barstool’s extremely popular flagship sports podcast, “Pardon My Take” (PMT). The new podcast, which launches on Thursday, covers business success and failure.
All seven episodes of “The Corp” will drop at once, more like a Netflix run than a weekly podcast. Guests include NBA legend Kobe Bryant, real estate mogul and CNBC “Shark Tank” personality Barbara Corcoran, New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, Fanatics founder and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, Starwood Hotels founder Barry Sternlicht, and social media marketer Gary Vaynerchuk. Square’s Cash App is the exclusive presenting sponsor.
The podcast’s title is a reference to Rodriguez’s holding company, A-Rod Corp, but also to a recurring joke Katz makes on PMT: that he works on the side for A-Rod Corp. Rodriguez caught wind of the joke when he would speak at college campuses and students would ask him about Katz. Nearly a year ago, Katz and Rodriguez met for dinner, then met up a few more times, and eventually Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini reached out to Rodriguez about a partnership.
“For me this partnership all goes back to Erika,” Rodriguez tells Yahoo Finance, “someone I respect so much.”
The decision to release all seven episodes at once was about Barstool, which now has 25 different podcasts, trying out a different format. But it was also about not detracting too much from PMT, its best-known podcast.
“I wanted to do something different, because I think there’s a little bit of saturation and exhaustion in podcasts,” says Katz. “So instead of constantly promoting a new episode every week, this is all there at once, you can binge-listen to it. And they’re evergreen — this is something you could listen to in a year from now. I also wanted it to be different from PMT, because I won’t beat around the bush, PMT is my passion and my love and what I wake up excited to do every day. This way it doesn’t feel like it’s taking away from my bread and butter.”
‘I’m more comfortable in my own skin’
Rodriguez, just four years removed from his historic suspension from baseball, has managed to pull off a public image makeover. He is now a baseball broadcaster on Fox and ESPN, a recurring guest “shark” on CNBC’s “Shark Tank,” still works as an adviser to the New York Yankees, and runs his business.
He posts obsessively to Instagram, which he explains this way: “I’m more comfortable in my own skin, let’s start there, and I’m in a great place in my life and feel appreciative and grateful for where I am. We have these platforms now, we can go direct to the consumer with sharing information, forming a relationship with your followers, and that’s a very powerful tool.”
For Rodriguez, the Barstool podcast’s themes of failure and reinvention had obvious personal relevance and appeal.
“All of our guests had one thing in common: they all had miserable falls,” he says. “And they all had the ability to get back up, dust off, and redefine themselves. That jumped off the page to me, and how much they own their failures. And I speak a lot about my situation and my comeback.”
Katz felt the same positivity after the conversations he and Rodriguez had with their guests. “Especially in the negative world we live in today,” he says, “it’s interesting to hear someone say, ‘Hey, I had a lot of setbacks, but now I’m tremendously successful. But I’m still striving every day.'”
‘There’s going to be reaction—some positive, some not so positive’
For Barstool, recruiting Rodriguez is a big score. For Rodriguez, there’s some risk to this venture.
Barstool Sports is known for its rabidly devoted fans, who identify as “Stoolies.” They have driven “Pardon My Take” to the No. 1 ranking among all sports podcasts. But the web site is extremely controversial, and has a documented history of troubling incidents. Just last year, ESPN brought on Katz and his “Pardon My Take” co-host “PFT Commenter” for a new show, then canceled the show after one episode. (In 2016, The Chernin Group bought a majority stake in the website and has invested $25 million to date.)
Rodriguez knows Barstool’s reputation. “Look, any time you do something, there’s going to be reaction—some positive, some not so positive,” he says. “I think the Barstool platform is unique in many ways. I think it has the ear of millennials. I think there’s a way of communicating with millennials about sports and business in a way that isn’t so buttoned up. For most of my other work, it is buttoned up, whether that’s Fox or ESPN, or CNBC. I think with this, we get to have a little bit of fun and show our personalities.”
Nardini, too, says the goal at Barstool is fun, and that’s her best guess as to how they got Rodriguez on board. “I think what Barstool does well is we get people to relax,” she says. “And I think what we’ve done for Alex is give him a platform where he can be creative and free.”
Katz and Nardini both say plans are already in the works for a second season.