Is it possible that Joe Rogan is podcasting’s first billionaire? And is the stand-up comedian-turned-podcast host also offering a template for how Howard Stern could leave his perch in satellite radio? Andrew Wilkinson, the chief executive at the internet investment firm Tiny Capital, thinks so. And being a money guy, he puts his numbers out front in a case for why a subscription model has potential for the industry.
Data points are notoriously difficult to come by in podcasting and the self-published model used by Rogan requires not only some estimations but trust that what has been released is accurate. That being said, Wilkinson says that based on Rogan’s self-reported 200 million downloads per month, he estimates the host is making between $64-$240 million per year in podcast advertising revenue—and that’s assuming his audience size has been inflated by twice what it really is. But by any measure that’s a successful podcast. Wilkinson says based on that revenue range and the fact that the podcast industry is growing at 30% or more per year, people in his line of work on Wall Street would put the crown on Rogan. “If it were publicly traded, his podcasting business could easily fetch a valuation in the billions,” Wilkinson writes in a blog post. He points out his revenue estimates don’t include any additional revenue generated from Rogan’s YouTube channel, which has more than six million subscribers. Wilkinson says the return would be even more “insane” if Rogan converted to a premium subscription model. “Even if he kept the show free and offered ad-free streams, or an extra episode per week for $5-$10 per month, the numbers would boggle the mind,” he says.
Rogan’s success may not be going unnoticed at Sirius XM Radio where Howard Stern has traditionally been its top-paid personality. Under his current deal, Stern is paid a reported $90 million a year by the satellite radio company. But Stern’s contract expires in December 2020 and Wilkinson thinks he’d “have to be insane to renew it” based on some simple math. Wilkinson estimates Stern could get as much as $230 million per year in subscription revenue (see the math HERE) if a mere 5% of SiriusXM listeners were converted. And even when a few million dollars is removed for startup costs, hosting services and other expenses, it would leave the host with far more money than SiriusXM could ever offer him. Not to mention the total control over content that Stern has long craved since his broadcast radio days.
Supercast Takes Flight
Wilkinson’s blog post came as Supercast, a company that Tiny Capital has invested in, launches. Supercast aims to make it easy for podcast producers to switch from an ad-supported model to a listener-supported subscription model. Wilkinson says he became interested in the idea while helping a few podcaster friends launch a show and then cobbling together systems to make a podcast subscription system revealed a need in the marketplace.
“It’s everything a podcaster needs to go from having to read deodorant ads to sweet, sweet recurring revenue and true independence,” he says. “Podcasters can use it to fully move to a subscriber supported model, or just offer an ad-free stream or extended episodes as a special benefit for listeners who want to pay for it.”
Supercast doesn’t require users to download an app. Instead they just need to click a link in show notes and use either Apple Pay or Google Pay to subscribe. Podcasters get data such as their monthly recurring revenue, average revenue per listener, and listener lifetime value. Peter Attia, host of The Drive podcast became Supercast’s first user—and investor. He’s using the technology to deliver exclusive podcast content to the show’s paying members.
In addition to Supercast, Tiny Capital last November acquired the podcast listening app Castro.