As 2021 draws to a close, iHeartMedia says it has seen monthly downloads on the iHeartPodcast Network increase 90% this year to 337 million shows listened to during the past 12 months. And its monthly reach is up 49% to 32 million listeners in the U.S. “During that time, iHeartRadio has seen multicultural audiences flourish to new highs, as listenership among Black, Hispanic and other diverse audiences has all significantly grown,” it says in a blog post. The company credits the gains to new networks and partnerships such as The Black Effect, My Cultura, Seneca Women, and Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players.
“Our podcast business continues to reach new levels for revenue, profitability, listenership and downloads,” said CEO Bob Pittman during a conference call last month. Podcast ad revenue at iHeartMedia catapulted 184% during the third quarter putting the company on track to have more than $200 million in podcast revenue this year with the business already at $156 million through the first nine months of the year.
“It is clear evidence that we continue to gain share. And I think that is really the flywheel effect that we have,” said Pittman. “And no matter how much money people bring to the party to play in the podcast game, the reality is it's about having a hit show.” He also noted that iHeart has two and a half times as many ranked shows as its closest competitor across Podtrac’s 19 genre categories. “We also have the most shows with over one million downloads. These stats highlight the breadth and depth of our leadership position and the power of the flywheel effect that comes with it,” said Pittman.
In the year-end tally, iHeart also says some categories are showing exponential increases in downloads. On iHeartRadio, shows in the Business category had a 133% increase in downloads during 2021. And Entertainment podcast downloads increased 80% according to the company.
But other categories are showing big gains too, including news and politics (+25% listener growth), business (+9%) to music (+8%), sports (+7%) and comedy (+7%). “Over the past year, the podcast industry has seen exponential growth, fueled by increasingly diverse audiences,” it says in the blog post.
Conal Byrne, CEO at iHeart Digital Audio Group, earlier told The Verge that nearly a quarter (23%) of its monthly podcast listeners are Black. That is up from 19% in 2020 per Triton Digital data. Byrne attributes the change to the launch of The Black Effect Network in September 2020 in a joint venture with syndicated radio personality Charlamagne Tha God.
It is a similar story among Hispanics following the debut of My Cultura in May led by Enrique Santos, President and Chief Creative Officer of iHeartLatino. At year-end iHeart estimates 21% of its podcast listeners are Hispanic, up from 18% in 2020.