All Five Episodes will Premiere May 22
30 for 30 Podcasts will return this spring with its first serialized season: five episodes that delve deep into the complicated world of Bikram Yoga—a community grappling with its own identity and survival in the wake of sexual assault allegations against its charismatic guru and founder, Bikram Choudhury. The entire season will be released on the same day, Tuesday, May 22, for listeners to enjoy at the pace they choose. 30 for 30 Podcasts can be found on the ESPN App, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn and wherever podcasts are available.
Reported and produced by ESPN’s Julia Lowrie Henderson, the series explores how this young Indian yogi used his connections with celebrities such as Shirley MacLaine, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Quincy Jones to launch a hot yoga empire that changed yoga in America forever. As Choudhury rode the money train of fitness-obsessed America, the Speedo-clad and Rolex-wearing guru used the healing powers of his yoga revolution to hide his increasingly dark behavior – bilking business partners, verbally harassing students, and ultimately sexually assaulting several followers. Today, there is a warrant for Choudhury’s arrest and he has filed for bankruptcy and left the country.
Henderson, having practiced and worked in the Bikram Yoga community, uses her experience to help listeners get inside a deeply private community. The series features in-depth interviews with Bikram practitioners, teachers, studio owners, and women who claim to have been abused by Choudhury.
“Approaching a community that I once was a part of – and thought I understood – only to realize how much I didn’t know and how great a toll one man’s struggles have had on his followers has been quite a rollercoaster,” says Henderson. “Questions of identity are never easy, especially when yours becomes so intertwined with someone else’s name. I’m grateful that this story is getting the platform and space that it deserves.”
Jody Avirgan, 30 for 30 Podcasts host and producer, added: “This story checks all of the 30 for 30 boxes. It’s full of compelling characters, big ideas, and offers a lot of lessons for how we think about sports, gender, power and community. Because the story is so layered, it’s worthy of the multi-episode treatment — a new format for us that we’re very excited to experiment with.”
30 for 30 Podcasts, which first debuted in July 2017, tell original sports stories in the likeness of the acclaimed 30 for 30 documentaries, but made exclusively for audio. The first two seasons featured individual episodes that explored and reported on new sports stories that combine original interviews and archival sound. 30 for 30 Podcasts is sponsored by Delta Air Lines and ZipRecruiter. More information on the series can be found in the official press kit: http://bit.ly/2HZZL3e
Recently on ESPNFrontRow.com, Traug Keller, ESPN senior vice president, ESPN Audio, discussed the state of ESPN’s podcast business, where it’s going and how storytelling (as found in the 30 for 30 series) is one of the three key tentpoles in ESPN’s podcasting strategy.
About ESPN Films
ESPN Films has been an industry leader in documentary filmmaking since its inception in March 2008, producing more than 100 documentaries that have showcased some of the most compelling stories in sports. The high quality of storytelling, highlighted by the Peabody and Emmy-Award winning 30 for 30 series and the Academy-Award winning documentary “O.J.: Made in America,” has led to record viewership as well as multiple honors and critical acclaim. Additional projects from ESPN Films over the years have included 30 for 30 Shorts, Nine for IX and the SEC Storied series.
About ESPN Radio
ESPN Radio, the country’s largest sports radio network, ESPN Deportes Radio, ESPNRadio.com, and ESPN Podcasts comprise ESPN Audio.
ESPN Radio, which launched January 1, 1992, provides more than 9,000 hours of talk and event content annually, reaching 20 million listeners a week on 500 nationwide stations, including more than 375 full-time affiliates and clearance in the top 25 markets. ESPN owns and/or operates stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. ESPN Radio programming is also available on SiriusXM and via digital distributors Apple Music, Slacker Radio and TuneIn.
ESPN Audio launched its first podcast in 2005, and in 2017 recorded more than 288 million downloads. In December 2017, ESPN podcasts reached five million people, ranking ESPN fourth among podcast producers in America (per Podtrac). The most popular titles include Fantasy Focus Football, The Lowe Post and podcast versions of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, First Take, Pardon the Interruption and Around The Horn. Listeners spend more than 3:22 per week listening to ESPN Podcasts. The critically acclaimed “30 for 30” series expanded into podcasting in 2017.