How to Make an Essential Esports Podcast
As gaming surges in pop culture, broadcasters are looking at a huge opportunity.
Over the past few years, esports has exploded into an industry capable of rewarding its top talent with million-dollar contracts. However, mainstream sports coverage hasn’t quite capitalized on the movement’s growing fanbase, which leaves plenty of opportunities for emerging podcasters looking to ride this surging cultural wave.
So, how do you make a great esports show?
That’s the question we posed to Tim Krajewski, who has co-hosted the weekly podcast The Center Ring with Anuj Bajaj since 2015. In that timeframe, esports has graduated from niche to mainstream, with tens of millions of fans worldwide devoutly playing and viewing live streams of titles like Overwatch, League of Legends, and Valorant. The independently produced show has met that audience’s need for more content thanks to insightful commentary, interviews with high-profile gamers, and an approachable tone that resonates with both casual fans and the most entrenched insiders.
Krajewski’s main advice? “Above all else, you have to be consistent.” Here, the Dallas-based host shares what he’s learned over the last five years making The Center Ring and how aspiring podcasters can break into the esports space—or any other burgeoning genre.
Spotify for Podcasters: When you first started The Center Ring, what challenges did you guys face?
Tim Krajewski: I was working, at the time, in traditional sports radio, so we were still bound by FCC rules. Even though the podcast wasn't always on radio, it would appear sometimes on the air, so we had to be careful and follow those rules. If you’re playing video games, it’s rated “M for Mature,” but on radio, you have to tone that back a little bit. And, obviously, when you're talking on air, you're not always talking to the esports audience.
So, the challenge that we had to deal with—and we still deal with it today—is making a podcast for everyone. Whether you're new to esports or watch it every single day, you can still jump into the show and not be completely lost or bored.
In ball sports, people understand, “OK, the ball has to go into the hoop.” But in esports, if you were just watching League of Legends or Overwatch, that’s a hurdle you have to get through. I try to not get too into the weeds in terms of abilities and things like that. I tend to keep it more towards players’ styles. But I think that’s one of the challenges esports has—it’s a much broader spectrum of subjects.
Your show doesn’t have backing from one particular game or company. What are the advantages of being independent in a landscape where there’s lots of branded productions?
We were definitely more aware of what we would say right at the start of TCR. We've been involved, we've paid attention to esports forever. We were kids, it was a new podcast, so we didn’t want to come in just throwing shots. But as we moved along, people had to figure out who we were before we could come out and say everything we wanted to say.
Part of the reason we started TCR is because we are free agents. We’re not tied to an org. You can look at some of these websites that cover esports on their backed by a big org, who will run their own podcast. You're not going to get the hot takes. You're not going to get real opinions there.
What opportunities are there in esports podcasting? Should a creator pick a game or specific topic and run with it, or go with a general approach?
There's opportunities in there for more of a multi-sport type show. This is another difference between esports and traditional sports that people don't understand: Don't fall in love with the game too much, because at any moment it could be dead. Football’s not going anywhere. That's here to stay. Baseball, hockey, basketball, those sports are good. You're safe.
Look at Overwatch, for instance. You’re seeing numbers suggesting that people are waiting for Overwatch 2. If that comes out, it destroys half the Overwatch player base, potentially. That's part of the issue with how companies cover esports—folks try to put everything into one basket. People have asked us, “Why don’t you just do separate shows for the different sports?” And that’s just not the show I want to live.
If you're doing a podcast, you ultimately have to do it for you. “Would you listen to the show?” And if the answer is no, then you're probably not going to do a good job of hosting it.