UTD Podcast is now available in our club app

Wednesday 02 June 2021 11:00

With the close season upon us, the official Manchester United App has launched a new feature which will allow fans to discover and listen to the full collection of UTD Podcasts within the app.

Fans will no longer need to download episodes via third-party podcast platforms but will be able to listen to and watch natively via the official club app.  Importantly, with this new feature, registered fans will now be able to switch to video mode if they prefer to watch the podcast. The flexible feature will allow fans to pause the podcast at any point and pick back up where they left off when they return to the app, as well as listen in the background whilst they use other apps. The new feature is now available across 170 countries. 

Ian Nolan, Chief Content Officer within Manchester United’s Media department, said: “Over the past 18 months, we have published over 80 episodes of the UTD Podcast. We felt that the time was right to integrate the full collection into the official club app with every episode available free of charge to fans, in both audio and video formats.”

The club’s widely-acclaimed podcast celebrated over three million downloads this month, and has also been shortlisted for Sports Podcast of the Year by The Sports Industry. In the 18 months since it was launched, the podcast has become the number one official football club podcast on Apple with a maximum 5-star approval rating from subscribers, reflecting the growing popularity of its in-depth conversations with some of United’s biggest stars past and present, and its unflinching approach to sensitive topics. 

It has managed to cut through the noise in a crowded market by bravely tackling subjects such as mental health, poverty, racism, bullying, addiction and even suicide. Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie, Patrice Evra, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are among those to have sat down with presenters Sam Homewood, Helen Evans and former United defender David May.

During 2020, audiences continued to rise despite the disruption to engagement habits during the coronavirus pandemic. While the suspension of the daily commute for many people during lockdown reduced one key mainstay of daily podcast consumption, this was more than offset by an increase in binge listening from home, with many new listeners catching up on multiple episodes in single sessions. Downloads of the podcast surged by 60% during lockdown with the average session time pushing one hour.

While plenty of time is allowed for conventional football chat, it is the podcast’s exploration of more challenging issues such as mental health and racism which have provided some of its most memorable and impactful moments.

Some episodes have swung from laughter to tears and back again; all have explored the emotional highs and lows, and the mental challenges of life at the world’s biggest football club and, for former players, life after the football stops. The powerful, sometimes raw conversation has set it apart from other football podcasts and challenged assumptions of what fans should expect from official club content, which has often been seen in the past as safe and sanitised.

Nolan said the editorial approach has made a strong connection with fans. “We looked at the sports podcast market and realised that clubs had a ‘cookie cutter’ approach,” said Nolan. “We felt there was a space to tackle topical issues that club channels often shy away from, and we felt a podcast was the perfect vehicle to do that.” 

“Mental health, racism, poverty, suicide, gender equality and bullying have all been tackled in the 80-plus episodes so far. These are often difficult topics for fans to talk to each other about, but they can become a more natural part of everyday discussion when raised by their sporting heroes and idols. That is the common theme throughout – it’s good to talk.”

The extraordinary story of UTD Podcast so far Video

The extraordinary story of UTD Podcast so far

🎙🔴 With storytelling at its heart and tackling tough topics, UTD Podcast is no ordinary series after 75 episodes…

The podcast resonated with fans more strongly than ever during the pandemic as topics such as mental health and racism have been at the forefront of national and international conversation.

In one notable episode, ex-player Quinton Fortune spoke candidly about racism in light of the Black Lives Matter protests, relating it to his childhood experience in 1980s South Africa, when the country was gripped by Apartheid. Another guest, Viv Anderson, spoke about the horrendous abuse players received from the terraces in the 1970s, and Lee Sharpe spoke openly about his struggles with mental health, and how he hid his troubles from even his closest friends and family.

Patrice Evra also talked powerfully about his career-long battle against racism. Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba spoke candidly about the pressure of modern media, and in particular social media, and the importance of mental health. Dimitar Berbatov explained how he survived famine, poverty and kidnap in communist Bulgaria, before football gave him his escape. All of these episodes are available, along with every episode since the start, in the new app feature.

The hard-hitting content has dovetailed with the club’s campaigning on issues such as anti-racism and mental health awareness, bringing these issues into the open through the personal experiences of club legends. “We keep in things that other podcasts would cut out, making fans feel like they’re in the room and taking them on that emotional journey,” said Nolan. 

The storytelling and evergreen nature of the episodes mean fans binge on them, starting new sessions from where they left off. For Nolan, who oversees all of United’s content output from MUTV and the official club app, to its social media channels, the success of the podcast has demonstrated the power of high-quality and authentic content to deepen engagement with the club’s global army of fans. 
Commenting on the integration of the UTD Podcast into the app, Nolan said: “We distribute the podcast widely, across 50+ global podcast platforms and apps. We also film each episode, allowing us to create video for distribution on our channels, and allow for global fans without access to podcast apps to consume in full. This latest development, integrating the entire catalogue of episodes into a dedicated feature within the app seemed like the next natural step for our global content strategy.

“We’ve had thousands of letters and emails and we strive to read out or respond to them all. We want the fans to be part of the podcast, and we want to bring them closer to the club”

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far with the UTD Podcast and it’s continuing to go from strength to strength as new listeners are added to a very loyal existing subscriber base,” says Nolan. “It has quickly become one of our most engaged media formats and that is testament to the amazing wealth of personalities and stories that make Manchester United so special.”

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