UPDATE: July 13, 2020: Scripps has announced plans to sell Stitcher to SiriusXM for $325 million, saying that the deal represents a return of more than double its podcasting investment over the last five years.
- Sirius XM is closing in on a deal to buy the Stitcher podcasting division of the E.W. Scripps company, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The price tag would come in at around $300 million, per the Journal.
- Stitcher owns the Earwolf and Stitcher Podcasts networks, which together offer over 50 programs, including Conan O'Brien's podcast, "Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast" and "Freakonomics Radio." Additionally, Stitcher controls an advertising group called Midroll Media that distributes and sells ads on more than 250 podcasts, according to the Journal.
- Scripps initially acquired Stitcher in 2016 for just $4.5 million, and eventually integrated the group with Midroll, which it bought a year prior for $50 million, the Journal said.
If Sirius XM acquires Stitcher — and the Journal's report indicates a deal is nearly closed — the company would notch not only a formidable amount of original podcast programming, but also an advertising unit, Midroll Media, that's used by several high-profile shows on third-party networks, such as "My Favorite Murder," which is part of Exactly Right, and "WTF With Marc Maron."
Stitcher's combined slate of audio content, ad partnerships and listener data would accelerate Sirius XM's transformation into a major player in the podcasting space, a position the broadcasting company was already shoring up. Last month, it bought podcast technology startup Simplecast, which provides a platform to let producers publish and manage shows and measure their listening audience. Sirius XM is integrating Simplecast into AdsWizz, its ad-tech subsidiary that helps publishers monetize their shows.
It's unsurprising that a bigger bid for content from Sirius XM has followed the Simplecast purchase, especially as audio-streaming rivals ramp up their own podcast acquisitiveness. Spotify has been particularly active with dealmaking in recent months as it looks to diversify beyond music streaming.
The same week the Simplecast deal was announced, Spotify reportedly reached an agreement to carry a new podcast from Kim Kardashian centered on criminal justice, according to a separate Journal report. Spotify in May signed a deal to exclusively broadcast "The Joe Rogan Experience," one of the most popular programs in the medium, and earlier this year bought Bill Simmons' The Ringer network for $196 million in cash. In 2019, Spotify first staked out a more serious piece of the podcast market by buying the network Gimlet Media and podcast production studio Anchor.
IHeartMedia, which competes more closely with Sirius XM through its radio business, has similarly upped investments in podcasts. In February, IHeartMedia, which is the largest owner of radio stations in the U.S., created a custom advertising network aimed at marketers looking to reach podcast listeners.
Larger land grabs in audio streaming come as the U.S. audience for podcasting grew 16% to 104 million consumers earlier this year, according to findings from Edison Research and Triton Digital. While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted typical listening occasions, such as commutes — and subsequently had an impact on advertising revenue — podcasting's appeal as a popular, mobile-oriented media channel is unlikely to cool in the near future.