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Acast announced Wednesday that its board has greenlit a review of potential strategic and financial initiatives as it looks to take advantage of growing investor interest in the fast-growing podcast industry. The Stockholm-based company said that review will include an evaluation of its capital structure as well as whether to pursue an initial public offering and listing of the company's shares on a public market. The review will be carried out during the spring of 2021.

The announcement comes as the global podcast platform says 2020 was a “record-shattering year” in terms of both revenue and downloads. Acast has released a series of data points and insights based on what it sees among its advertisers and listeners across its 20,000-show podcast network. It reports its global revenue totaled $66 million last year, with revenue in the U.S. market more than doubling with a 116% growth rate from 2019 to 2020 even with a pandemic impacting advertisers.

“Programmatic buying grows in popularity” the company said. It reported the Acast Automated platform saw programmatic ad sales revenue increase 215% last year compared to 2019. And as more brands embraced programmatic buying, a greater number also bought ad time through the Acast Marketplace in 2020. It said in the U.S. global giants such as AT&T, as well as niche players such as Theragun, Third Love, and Headspace were all on its client list. 

As podcast advertising becomes more established, Acast says individual brand spend increased 119% in comparison to 2019, with the number of campaigns spending at least $100,000 more than doubled last year, growing 126% from the prior year. Overall, Acast also ran 2,885 individual, live-read ads, more than twice the number in 2019. Its branded content revenue also jumped 258% compared to 2019. 

“Our 2020 insights confirm podcasts are not only a mainstream media firmly built into the consumer psyche as listens continue to surge, but also a mainstream advertising channel,” said Leandro Saucedo, Chief Business and Strategy Officer at Acast. 

More Podcasts And More Downloads

Beyond revenue, Acast says global listens to content hosted by the company grew to three billion in 2020. That meant its podcasts received more than 300 million listens on average per month across dozens of the largest podcast listening platforms. Acast also says the number of podcasts it hosts grew 144% last year.

“Acast is the infrastructure behind the podcast industry. We work with podcast creators, advertisers and listeners, and we’re the pipes that make it all work,” said Saucedo, “allowing us to draw upon data from anywhere listeners get their podcasts and providing a deeper and more holistic view of the industry.”

Among its findings about the U.S. marketplace were three of the biggest ever weeks for listening came in the final six weeks of the year. Driven by political news, Acast reports the week of December 14 was its biggest-ever week of listens in the U.S., closely followed by the weeks of November 16 and November 23. 

Overall, Acast says its U.S. podcast listeners grew 66% in 2020 compared to a year earlier, with reach increasing by 149% or twice the projected market growth. It also shared some quirkier findings, such as the biggest state – California – dominated podcast listens overall last year, while South Dakota showed the lowest listening figures. 

On a global scale, Acast said its focus on Mexico is paying off. In that country its downloads soared 245% last year versus 2019. And even though the U.S. political news was not a factor, it saw a spike in the number of episodes consumed during November 2020 with a 30% increase in consumption, the biggest monthly increase of the year.

News & Politics was the most listened-to category: with those downloads growing 34% year-to-year. The Global News Podcast by BBC World Service was Acast’s most listened-to podcast globally and in the U.S. in 2020