Ad tech has become the hot property in podcast deal-making during the past year, and iHeartMedia’s latest acquisition will dovetail those capabilities. It has struck a $230 million deal with the E.W. Scripps Company to buy Triton Digital, the measurement company that tracks streaming audio and podcast listening. Triton had become an orphan of sorts at Scripps which in October closed the sale of Stitcher and Midroll Media in a $325 million deal to SiriusXM Radio.
The addition of Triton Digital’s vast array of infrastructure and measurement solutions will complement iHeartMedia’s current advertising technology services, data platforms and programmatic platforms. The company said it will now be able to provide audio content to producers and advertisers with a full ad service package for streaming and podcasting no matter their size, reach or distribution method. And iHeart said it will become the first and only company in the audio market to provide on-demand, broadcast and digital streaming radio and podcasting ads programmatically.
“Adding Triton Digital and its industry leading services to the iHeartMedia audio ecosystem establishes iHeartMedia as the only company with a total audio advertising technology and data solution,” said iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman. “This acquisition further strengthens our position as the No. 1 audio company in America and provides unique -- and critical -- solutions for the industry and for advertisers,” he said in a statement.
The Triton Digital deal is the largest acquisition made by iHeartMedia in more than a decade, reflecting the importance that digital audio has in the company’s future. In October, iHeart bought the podcast ad tech and analytics company Voxnest for $50 million. It earlier bought Stuff Media for $55 million in 2018, and used it as the foundation of the iHeartPodcast Network.
During the past two and a half years, the company has also acquired tech provider Jelli for $65.3 million, which allows marketers to buy broadcast radio programmatically and enables data targeting and creative optimization. Through its subsidiary RCS, iHeart also acquired cloud-based audio playout platform Radiojar. It also bought Unified, which provides social advertising data intelligence and solutions.
The iHeartMedia acquisition will need the approval of federal regulators. Once that is completed, likely by the end of first quarter, all Triton Digital employees are expected to join iHeartMedia.
In addition to the Webcast Metrics reports that measure streaming audio and the Podcast Metrics reports that track podcast downloads, Triton Digital also owns a programmatic advertising marketplace, a suite of ad-serving technology, and Omny Studio, the podcast technology and hosting company.
“We are thrilled to join the iHeartMedia family,” said Triton Digital CEO Neal Schore. “We remain deeply committed to providing the world’s broadcasters, podcasters, and online audio publishers with continuously innovated, best-in-class solutions and services for online audio management, advertising, and consumption data, and are well positioned to enhance iHeartMedia’s value proposition to audiences and advertisers.”
Scripps Leaves Audio Business
The all-cash Triton Digital sale represents a near-doubling of return on Scripps investment. It bought Triton for $150 million in late 2018 from the private equity firm Vector Capital. It is the latest exit from audio for Scripps. It earlier sold off its radio station business in a series of deals worth a combined $83.5 million during 2018.
“The sale of Triton creates significant value for Scripps’ shareholders and employees, as we close a chapter on our growth of digital audio businesses through a series of successful transactions and a focus on prudent operations, including our core TV business,” said Scripps CEO Adam Symson in a statement. “We believe iHeartMedia is a perfect fit for Triton Digital given their focus and position as the leader in audio solutions,” he said.
Scripps previously said it had no immediate plans to sell Triton, calling it a “high margin contributor” to the company’s national media division. Scripps Chief Financial Officer Jason Combs said the company would use proceeds from the Triton sale to pay down debt.