Looking to capitalize on the flurry of deal making in the podcast industry, the four public media companies that own Pocket Casts have decided to put their listening app up for sale. Pocket Casts has been owned by NPR, New York Public Radio and Chicago Public Media since May 2018. The group then took on BBC Studios as an ownership partner last March.
News of the pending sale came in a financial disclosure made by NPR, which said the group agreed last month to look for a buyer. “The plan of sale is still in development,” it said, adding, “NPR expects to no longer be an investor in [Pocket Casts] by September 30, 2021.”
The document also shows that Pocket Casts had a net loss last year totaling $2,347,193 last year. That meant NPR’s share of the loss was $812,129 based on its 34.6% stake in the company. New York Public Radio – the parent of the podcast creator WNYC Studios – has a similar interest in Pocket Casts. And Chicago Public Media’s stake is 27.46%. BBC Studios holds the remaining 3.35% according to the filing.
The public media companies have invested millions in building Pocket Casts. NPR said it invested $2.5 million in 2019 alone.
The timing of a sale may never have been better. In recent months hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent on podcast acquisitions by Spotify, iHeartMedia and SiriusXM. While most of the deal making has been related to ad tech and content, SiriusXM will pay as much as $325 million to acquire the Stitcher app as well as its advertising rep firm Midroll – the biggest-ever podcast industry deal.
During the past few years Pocket Casts has adopted a new business strategy. What had been a paid app became a free-to-download app in 2019 while still offering a premium subscription tier for desktop access and a more customized experience. That upgrade costs 99 cents a month, or $10 per year.