Jim Meyer, Sirius XM Radio’s chief executive, may be at the helm of one of the biggest podcast platforms. It now owns Pandora, which has already picked up about 3,000 podcasts and, according to executives, will have 5,000 to 10,000 by year-end. But Meyer further deepened his position as a podcast skeptic Tuesday when he delivered the company’s quarterly revenue picture to Wall Street.
“Right now it seems to be a race as you can just put the most stuff up, which personally I don't believe is what's going to win,” Meyer told analysts in a conference call. “There's content everywhere. But it's almost like a flea market, in that it's up there everywhere and no one can find it easily.” That followed the previous quarter’s presentation when Meyer said podcasting wasn’t so much a “revolution” but rather “just an evolution of how spoken word is being delivered.” Now as SiriusXM finds itself three months deeper into the podcasting business, Meyer explained he believes the biggest role for Pandora will be to act as a “gatekeeper” of the kinds of podcasts that it believes will catch fire with listeners.
SiriusXM Radio’s $3.5 billion acquisition of Pandora produced its first cross-platform programming initiative involving podcasts when the satcaster announced in April that a selection of satellite radio shows would now be available to all Pandora listeners as podcasts. The crown jewel in SiriusXM’s lineup—Howard Stern—isn’t part of the podcast lineup. That’s no surprise since “the King Of All Media” remains one of the driving factors in subscription sales for the satellite radio service.
Meyer pointed to content they’ve made available from Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Radio satellite radio channel as something that has potential to work in the podcast space. “We've been really happy with what we've seen with Kevin Hart and how we've seen listeners respond to that. But there are a few big things that need to happen I think before this becomes a mega audience,” Meyer said.
Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s president and chief content officer, told analysts the company has a “twofold strategy” when it comes to podcasting. “Pandora will acquire a lot of podcasts that are out there. So it's a convenience factor for a lot of the listeners that they don't have to go elsewhere to find it,” he explained. “SiriusXM will continue to be very active in audio content as always, [and] will feed those podcasts with a whole another layer—with Kevin Hart, Andy Cohen and a number of other ones we have are going to be repurposed.” But Greenstein also said the company intends to, in some cases, develop original podcasts with those artists “that will be completely unique. And this will separate us at one level from everyone else.”
Even as some question whether the industry is at “peak podcast,” Meyer has said from where he sits a number of big media brands remain on the sidelines and that’s where SiriusXM may also discover new opportunities. “We believe that branded content is probably more important in the space,” Meyer said.
Greenstein thinks the relationships that SiriusXM has will help make that happen, by bringing big names and big brands that aren’t yet in podcasting to be part of their platform. “Those will look more reminiscent of the SiriusXM early talk deals, but will be triggered by both a component potentially for talk radio, but mostly for podcasting. So there are layers to go on that,” he said.