After bottomless headlines about podcast licensing deals, I think it’s cool to be acquired again. Or maybe Conan is just tired. I’m tired, and I haven’t even spent three decades as… the “good king” of the late night. In that regard, I’ll be away for the next few days, so send all pitches and thoughts to Jake (nice ones please!!).
SiriusXM Takes Over Conan O’Brien’s Podcast Network
So much for sticking to mid-tier deals, SiriusXM (though kudos on the wrong road† On Monday, the audio giant announced it has acquired Conan O’Brien’s production company, Team Coco, and has locked the comedian to a five-year talent contract. Bee a reported $150 millionthe transaction certainly isn’t the industry’s largest, but it’s a recall to the kind of mergers and acquisitions that happened before top podcasters embraced licensing deals.
Team Coco, founded in 2010 shortly after the end of O’Brien’s ill-fated run on The Tonight Showhas become a podcast force thanks to the success of its flagship show, Conan O’Brien needs a friend† Edison recently placed the show at number 26. The network has also expanded to include popular series from stars like Why don’t you want to date me? with Nicole Byer and Literally! With Rob Lowe, the license rights of which now belong to SiriusXM. According to the company, Team Coco gets 180 million downloads per year.
“Conan has built a great brand and organization at Team Coco with a proven track record of finding and launching engaging and addictive podcasts,” Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM Chief Content Officer said in a statement† “We look forward to continuing to grow the Team Coco brand.”
Since top podcasters like Joe Rogan and Alex Cooper choose to retain ownership of their brands and instead license their shows to streamers for eight- or nine-figure sums, O’Brien is an outlier. His deal is most reminiscent of Spotify’s acquisition of Bill Simmons in 2020 the bell† Like it the bellTeam Coco is a multi-podcast outfit that still relies heavily on its protagonist. Spotify has managed to retain Simmons for more than two years, giving him additional responsibilities as the streamer expands its international sports programming. The Team Coco deal gives SiriusXM five years to figure out how to keep O’Brien, or how to expand the brand to the point where it can exist without him.
If the nature of the deal was surprising, SiriusXM’s hunt for O’Brien was not. Team Coco had a long-standing distribution and ad sales agreement with Stitcher, who acquired SiriusXM in 2020. The audio company has expanded its podcast offerings as its flagship service bloody subscribers† But the company is looking for O’Brien to help in that department as well — the deal includes a new, exclusive Team Coco channel on SiriusXM.
Still, like other SiriusXM deals, this acquisition is about ad sales. SXM Media will also sell ads for Team Coco’s digital video, social media and live events. And Team Coco podcasts remain wide releases, available on major podcast platforms to maximize their audience.
Okay, now to Jake for some other items…
Marc Maron signs with Acast for advertising sales
SiriusXM may have closed a big one with Team Coco, but the company is also losing a big one this week.
Acast announced this morning that it has signed a three-year agreement to be the exclusive ad sales partner for WTF with Marc Maron† This is a big reward for Acast: Maron’s show reaches 55 million listens a year, according to the announcement, making it one of the best shows out there. Edison study rank it as the 29th biggest show of 2021, just a few slots below Conan O’Brien needs a friend†
WTF will be distributed and hosted by Acast under the deal, with bonus content and the show’s archives being offered to paying subscribers through Acast Plus. The show’s archives were previously offered through SiriusXM-owned Stitcher Premium, but those episodes will be cut once the Acast deal begins July 1, Acast spokesperson Ryan Hatoum tells WebMD. The edge† Acast hopes the WTF subscription over more than old episodes, though. Hatoum says “much of” the show’s back catalog will be opened to the public, and the subscription will instead be promoted by offering special content such as Q&As and live events. New episodes of WTF will remain widely available and will be published twice a week.
Like SiriusXM, Stitcher has announced a number of exclusive ad-sales deals and hosting packages in recent months. Acast’s roster also includes shows from Anna Faris and Margaret Cho, plus deals with major networks such as the BBC and BuzzFeed. WTF however, is by far the biggest single title I know, adding a top name to its ad sales ecosystem.
Spotify brings political ads back to podcasts
Spotify once again allows political ads to be bought for US candidates, parties, PACs, and elected or appointed officials — and they come for podcasts. protocol reported yesterday that political ads are making a comeback after Spotify stopped selling them in early 2020 (any idea what happened then?)
Now Spotify tells protocol it has spent two years “strengthening and improving” its systems to “responsibly validate and assess” – similar language warning – political advertisements. So the company has started reselling third-party shows and reaching out to partners to sell ads that can appear “in thousands of podcasts on and off Spotify,” according to the statement. protocol† Spotify is reportedly promising the ability to target ads to podcasts that discuss issues relevant to the candidates, which could make for a fairly strong ad offering. (The ads won’t appear on Spotify’s free music tier for now.)
One important caveat for podcasters: you’ll have to opt-in to political advertising so you can stay out of the fray if you want to. Political ads are also only served through direct sales for the Spotify Audience Network — meaning you have to talk to a salesperson and not use an automated system — and the company has safeguards in place to validate who those ads are coming from, Spotify spokesperson Erin tells me. Styles The edge†
“We’ve strengthened our internal political advertiser verification process to ensure ads are only purchased by US entities with US funds,” Styles said. Spotify does not accept advocacy or voting actions. Styles said political ads will still be bound by Spotify’s rules that prohibit “misleading, false, misleading or fraudulent content” and “content that attempts to manipulate or disrupt election-related processes.”
The context for all of this, of course, is that midterm election season is approaching and a lot of ads will be sold. Major online platforms have been talking back and forth over the past few years about how they want to deal with political advertising; For example, Facebook banned ads ahead of the 2020 election and brought them back a few months later. However, the stakes are much higher in an election year, so Spotify has a crucial window here to make sure its systems block bad actors before the ad really heats up.