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  • Writer's pictureHahn Lee

Podcasts Go BOOM!

July 13, 2020

Today Scripps announced that it has entered into an agreement with SiriusXM to sell its podcast business Stitcher for $325 million. The Stitcher company includes three distinct podcast business lines: the Midroll Media advertising rep firm; owned-and-operated podcast networks including the comedy-focused Earwolf; and the Stitcher podcast listening platform. In 2019, Stitcher had revenue of $72.5 million (a 42% increase over the $51.1 million that the business generated in 2018). Scripps acquired Midroll in 2015 for $55 million and the Stitcher app in 2016 for $4.5 million.

Admittedly, I have not followed the podcasting industry very closely. Perhaps this is a perfect example of “out of sight, out of mind” (Get it? Email me if you don’t.) But it’s been hard to ignore that podcast businesses have been grabbing some major headlines in recent years. So as the curious person that I am, I decided to do some light research to get my head around the podcasting industry and why it’s been garnering so much attention from large tech and media companies as well as from VCs and investors.

The History of Podcasting

According to this article on, Podcasting was developed in 2004 by former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and software developer Dave Winer. Curry wrote a program, called iPodder, that enabled him to automatically download Internet radio broadcasts to his iPod. Several developers improved upon his idea, and podcasting was officially born.

Industry Size and Total Addressable Market (TAM)

In 2019, podcast advertising revenues increased by 48% reaching $708.1 million. U.S. podcast advertising revenue is expected to grow 14.7% in 2020, despite the pandemic. As growth continues, U.S. podcast advertising revenue is nearing the $1 billion mark.

(Source: Fourth annual IAB Podcast Advertising Revenue Report prepared by PwC).

How Many Podcasts Are Out There?

There are many conflicting industry statistics out there, but I found these data points to be directionally helpful:

  • Currently there and over 30 million podcast episodes.

  • Apple Podcasts passed 1,000,000 total podcasts in April 2020. To compare to previous stats, Apple announced at its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) in 2018 that it had 550,000 active podcasts on iTunes.

Who’s Listening to Podcasts and To How Much?

Edison Research's Infinite Dial study estimated monthly podcast listenership in 2019 at 88 million podcast listeners in the country, up from 73 million in 2018. Forecasts suggest that the number of podcast listeners will surpass 160 million in 2023.

More than half of all US consumers above the age of 12 listen to podcasts. 82.4% of podcast listeners spend more than seven hours a week listening to podcasts. The average weekly podcast listener subscribes to an average of six shows and listens to seven shows per week.

To What Are All of Those People Listening?

It appears that NPR has the best performing podcasts. Good for NPR as News is the leading podcast genre for U.S. podcast advertisers, capturing 22% of revenues.

Podcasts vs. Other Media

Based on the chart below, podcasts’ hours per year per active user is closing the gap on radio, but the annual ad revenue projections are lagging significantly. I suspect that this is due to: 1) the infancy of the podcast industry; and 2) the lack of technology that enables dynamic ad insertion for podcasts. The latter is a challenge that I once experienced at TV Guide when we were trying to traffic ads in cable VOD content. Not the easiest thing to accomplish in those days.


Podcast M&A Deals (non-exhaustive list)

  • February 2020 - Spotify acquired Bill Simmons’ The Ringer for close to $200 million.

  • February 14, 2019 - Spotify acquired Anchor FM, a software company that enables users to create and distribute their own podcasts, for a total purchase consideration of €136 million.

  • February 15, 2019 - Spotify acquired Gimlet Media, an independent producer of podcast content, for a total purchase consideration of €172 million.

  • April 1, 2019 - Spotify acquired Cutler Media, a premier storytelling podcast studio, for a total purchase consideration of €49 million.

  • Amazon acquired Audible in 2008 for $300 million.

Podcast VC Deal Flow

Last year, there were 27 podcast funding deals that collectively raised $272 million.

Some of the podcasting start-ups mentioned in the article include:

(Source: Axios)

More to come…


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