The Athletic, the digital sports news organisation, has applied an ad-free subscription model since it was founded in Chicago in 2016, but now it is about to launch an ad-supported podcast entirely outside of the site’s paywall.

Starting on Monday, a new podcast called “The Lead” will air for free from a studio in Los Angeles with a focus on one major sports story each weekday, the first of which is expected to be next week’s NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams.

The show will be hosted by Kavitha Davidson and Anders Kelto, a former National Public Radio correspondent, and will be co-produced with Wondery LLC, the specialist podcast firm behind hits such as “Dirty John”, “Business Wars” and “American History Tellers”.

Hernan Lopez, founder and CEO of Wondery, told Bloomberg in an interview that the venture aims to emulate the success of “The Daily”, a daily news podcast hosted by Michael Barbaro of The New York Times.

“There’s hasn’t been, up until now, a daily in-depth sports podcast that does for sport what ‘The Daily’ has done for general news,” he said, adding that the show will be distributed on Apple, Spotify and other major podcast platforms.

Since its launch in January 2016, The Athletic has eschewed advertising as a source of revenue, relying instead on a subscriber base that is now estimated to number 600,000.

Alex Mather, co-founder and CEO of The Athletic, confirmed that the company had no intention of changing its subscription model for its main product but that there was scope for including advertising within its free podcasts.

“It [advertising] generally is a part of free podcasts and we’re comfortable with that,” he said. “We may experiment with advertising on free products, but our subscription product is absolutely sacrosanct.”

It is expected that the new podcast will serve as many as three ads in each 20-minute programme, but for Mather the main aim is broaden The Athletic’s reach. “For us, it’s really about finding potential subscribers,” he said.

Sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by WARC staff