“NEXT MONDAY 13 February, we are launching our brand new Second Captains World Service,” Eoin McDevitt announced on Monday’s installment of the popular podcast.
McDevitt, along with his colleagues Ken Early, Simon Hick, Mark Horgan and Ciarán Murphy, was delivering on a previous promise of big news.
“This will be a completely member-led, online station that gives you the chance to listen to all your favourite SC podcasts every day of the week,” he explained further.
Listeners of Second Captains will be charged €5 per month for the imminent daily installments, which will include guest presenters (former footballer and regular contributor Richie Sadlier is already confirmed), non-sports shows (Ken Early will be launching a political iteration) and immediate reaction to breaking news.
Those who don’t join will now only have access to Monday’s two shows.
Brave and ballsy were the two words being thrown around this week after the big reveal.
But that’s not exactly ringing true for the gang.
“We’re giddy with it, it’s unbelievably exciting,” director and producer Mark Horgan tells TheJournal.ie.
It’s been a while coming and it doesn’t feel like that for us. It feels right. It was the next logical step.
“We threw the dice a little a few years ago,” he adds, referencing the split from Newstalk where they presented Off the Ball.
The five-strong team spent months researching models that could work commercially for the company but also fit with their cult-like listenership.
According to Horgan, consumers are now more likely than ever to “pay for quality” but they were anxious to come up with a “fair price that wouldn’t put people off but was still competitive”.
Tight-lipped on how many of their over 200,000-plus followers they expect to get across the line, Horgan would not be drawn on their hopes or expectations.
It’s a shot in the dark for us. We feel it’s the right thing at the right time but some people, naturally, won’t come along and that’s completely cool.
To distribute its daily output, Second Captains will be using Patreon – a platform which allows “creators” to earn “sustainable income, directly from fans”. In return, it takes five percent of successfully processed payments.
“It has been proven to be successful for [shows with] dedicated followings,” continues Horgan, noting they took inspiration from US political podcast Chapo Trap House. Charging $5 per month, it now has more than 9,000 subscribers.
Fans of Second Captains like being in on the joke. They know what the deal is with the ‘You’re amazing’ sign-off, delight in Planet Earth references and can tell their Rashers Geraghty from their Black Puddin’ O’Toole.
So will people tune in to keep up with the story? The Coronation Street of podcasts?
Horgan insists there’ll be no cliffhangers or ‘tricks’ to get people in as signed-up members.
“The shows will be the same,” he says.
It’ll be what people are used to. We’ll be putting out really good shows as often as we can.
There will be benefits for paying customers though, including an induction pack (complete with an Early original doodle), advance notice of tickets for live shows, discounts on annuals and what will likely become much-coveted badges.
There are risks with paywalls – a quick google of ‘how to make money from a podcast?’ will highlight the dilemma of trying to get people to fork out cash for something they’re used to getting for free.
The company, however, has other revenue streams from sponsored live shows (a December event sold out within hours) and work with RTÉ Radio One during the summer months. With a mobile studio, it also has the ability to be flexible and vary its own production company model.
Making the announcement, McDevitt emphasised the importance of becoming an independent broadcaster, saying they are ready to “try a different way of doing things”.
Breaking from a four-year relationship with the Irish Times, Horgan says Second Captains – as a production company – now has to stand on its own, a prospect he is relishing.
“We’ve had a really good relationship with the Times. They’ve been behind us since we joined them. [The five of us] have been working together since 2004… [we're] doing this for a long time. We’ve been able to build up the elements of Second Captains.
“We’ve built the infrastructure, we have the studio. There comes a time when you have to be ambitious for yourself – without needing a separate media company or a wealthy backer. We don’t need the support of something else now.”
Except their dedicated listeners. And they’re willing to bet on them.