Liberty Media 220

The media conglomerate Liberty Media says podcasting has become one of the “key focuses” for the company, whose portfolio includes SiriusXM Radio and Pandora. CEO Greg Maffei has told investors to expect to hear “a lot more” from the company about how it intends to expand its audio content business when at its annual Investor Day next week.

“Podcasts are a great example of how audio content continues to expand,” said Maffei. While video consumption has become “maxed,” growth opportunities remain for audio, he added, crediting smart speakers. “There's a lot of room left to expand your audio day, unlike your video day, which is pretty much being capped out because everyone's got their device and the time in which you can use that device for video is limited,” Maffei said. “The audio day, between AirPods and Alexas, and other kinds of distribution devices, is only expanding—both in monetization and in time,” he told analysts on a conference call Monday.

In recent months SiriusXM and Pandora have ramped up their podcasting efforts, both in terms of content and monetization. That included the acquisition of AdsWizz, the advertising technology company that Pandora purchased for $145 million last year. Pandora and SiriusXM have also been putting more focus on content, most notably striking a multiyear deal last month to bring The Walt Disney Company’s Marvel Entertainment brand to the audio space.

As SiriusXM and Pandora move forward with their podcast efforts, Maffei said distribution exclusives, and short-term release windows giving a platform sole rights to a show, will play a greater role similar to how content like Howard Stern boosted satellite radio adoption. “Podcast is a place where you can really go to exclusives,” he said.

In terms of making money, Maffei told investors that he sees improving economics for podcasts. Today, even though the medium is hot, it still gets less than what video content producers are able to charge. Maffei said closing that gap presents a big opportunity for podcast companies. “The reality is all these new forms of audio content, like podcasting, are really attractive economically, and really attractive for consumers and therefore distributors,” he said.