IHM STuff

Ratcheting up its investment in the fast-growing podcast business, iHeartMedia is acquiring podcast publisher Stuff Media for a reported $55 million. The deal will combine iHeartRadio, already the No. 1 commercial radio podcaster (No. 2 overall) with the Atlanta-based parent of HowStuffWorks, which ranks fifth among podcast networks, based on audience size.

The purchase will allow iHeart to nearly double its podcast usage metrics after moving from fourth place to second in the August Podtrac Podcast Publishers rankings. The broadcaster already offers more than 20,000 podcasts, ranging from NPR and WNYC to ESPN and Gimlet, on its iHeartRadio streaming service, along with more than 750 in-house produced shows on the iHeartRadio Podcast Network. Before this acquisition, iHeartRadio podcast listening growth has increased 73% year-over-year in 2018 vs. 2017.

The acquisition comes one week after iHeart announced a partnership with HowStuffWorks and Tenderfoot TV, the companies behind popular podcast “Atlanta Monster,” to collaborate on season two of podcast “Monster: The Zodiac Killer.”

Founded in 1998 as a reference site, HowStuffWorks helped pioneer the podcast space with its easy-to-understand explanations of how the world works. Today, Stuff Media generates 61 million global downloads and streams per month. A big player in the podcast space for more than a decade, its signature podcast Stuff You Should Know surpassed 500 million downloads this year -- the first podcast to cross that threshold. Stuff Media has been publishing staples like Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, TechStuff and BrainStuff for ten years.

Because iHeartMedia is undergoing a Chapter 11 financial restructuring, the transaction is subject to approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Less than two weeks ago, the company requested court approval to buy all of the membership interests in an unnamed digital-related company but the specifics of the deal were kept confidential. A court filing showed iHeart signed a purchase agreement dated Aug. 29.

“While podcasting has already experienced tremendous growth, the real opportunity to bring the full potential of podcasts to the mainstream still lies ahead,” iHeart chairman & CEO Bob Pittman said. “Stuff Media is the original trailblazer of the podcasting industry, and we’ve been impressed by its ability to grow a massive, loyal audience over the past decade, led by a strong, experienced and cohesive management team, who we welcome to iHeartMedia. This strategic acquisition will pair Stuff Media’s wildly popular content and strong creative capabilities with iHeartMedia’s extensive resources and massive scale through our digital platforms, social reach and broadcast radio stations, introducing podcasts to the vast majority of the country and offering even more unique opportunities for advertisers to reach their consumers.”

Stuff Media president & CEO Conal Byrne will join iHeartMedia as head of its podcast division. Stuff Media’s podcasts will maintain their branding and remain headquartered in Atlanta, with Byrne continuing to run its podcast studio. Byrne will report to Darren Davis, President of the iHeartMedia Networks Group and iHeartRadio. Chris Peterson has been promoted to executive VP of iHeart’s podcasting division and will oversee its original podcasts, as well as manage the affiliate relationships for the company, and will report into Byrne.

“Combining our assets with the #1 audio and media company, and #1 commercial podcast publisher, gives us the unassailable position in the podcasting business and a platform like no one else,” Bryne said. “No company in the world has iHeart’s audience size and innovative drive, and coupled with the creative engine of Stuff Media, this is a game changer for podcast storytellers and advertisers alike, and I’m honored to be leading this effort.”

Citing “explosive” growth in its podcasts division, Davis said podcasts from marquee iHeart radio personalities such as Bobby Bones, Elvis Duran, The Breakfast Club and others “have created a whole new category. By acquiring Stuff Media, we’ll not only integrate its slate of original content, but more importantly, we’ll gain the most innovative minds in the podcasting industry to turbocharge our efforts.”