PodcastOne, a division of audio streaming and event company LiveOne, is planning to go public in a deal that would make it the first Los Angeles podcast-exclusive audio company to be publicly traded.
Several of PodcastOne’s biggest competitors – iHeartMedia, SiriusXM and Spotify – already have publicly listed securities. But Beverly Hills-based PodcastOne would be the first local podcast company to go public.
“All those guys are our partners,” LiveOne CEO Robert Ellin said of Spotify and Apple. “We distribute across all of them. [But] we’re very different, we are a small production distribution house that is laser focused on only podcasting whereas podcasting is a piece of their business, but it’s a much smaller piece [of] their overall companies.”
Ellin said that many of PodcastOne’s creators are also equity holders in the company, and stand to benefit directly from this listing. The CEO also claimed it would give podcast fans a chance to invest directly in the content they care about.
PodcastOne was launched in March 2007 by PodcastOne founder and president Kit Gray and National Radio Hall of Famer Norm Pattiz, who previously ran radio syndication firm WestwoodOne. LiveOne, formerly known as LiveXLive, bought PodcastOne in July 2020 for $16.1 million.
The deal saw PodcastOne become a wholly owned subsidiary of LiveOne, which itself went public in October 2017. Currently, LiveOne is not profitable, but it’s hoping another public spin-off could tip the scales.
The offering would spin out PodcastOne as a separate division of LiveOne and expects shares to begin trading at around $8 to $12 each. PodcastOne didn’t disclose how much it expected to net from the offering or when it expects to actually begin trading.
In 2021, the podcast advertising market surpassed $1 billion in ad revenue for the first time. It’s estimated that roughly 20% of internet users worldwide listened to podcasts in 2022, and that’s expected to grow to 23.5% by next year, according to analysts at Insider Intelligence.
But while podcast listenership is there, the advertising and sponsorship dollars are more flighty. To that end, Ellin said he expects this year will be “really tough” for sponsorship as companies cut ad spend to weather a more tumultuous economic climate. But, he expects the industry will mature and asserted, “it’s going to [grow] $10 billion over the next 10 years.”
Gray agreed and added, “the whole world is slowing down in terms of advertising spend, [and] people are making sure they’re spending money on stuff that works.” He noted that podcasts provide a generally straightforward picture of audience engagement, since most podcast ads are still affiliate links: hosts offer a code, and advertisers can see how many people use it to sign up for the service.
In a February quarterly filing, LiveOne reported that 35% of its revenue came from advertising. That was mainly driven by PodcastOne, which helped grow the company’s advertising revenue by 3% annually in 2022. Ads were the second-largest share of its income besides paid customer revenue – and the LiveOne network has approximately 1.9 million paid members. Overall last year, PodcastOne lost $3 million on revenue of $32.3 million.
It’s no wonder then that the company is keen to expand its podcast business to public markets. If all goes well, it could open the door for more content with which to sell even more valuable advertising.
“We’re [at a] $125 million valuation,” Ellin said. “Overall, as I see this industry, not only are you going to have the growth in just pure podcasting, but podcasting, live shows, products around podcasts.”
Ellin told dot.LA that existing shareholders of LiveOne will automatically receive dividends of PodcastOne stock based on how many LiveOne shares they hold; up to 16%. New investors will have the chance to buy in once PodcastOne is public under the symbol “PODC.” In a recent S-1 filing, PodcastOne said it plans to list on the NASDAQ.
Some of PodcastOne’s more than 200 shows include “The Adam Carolla Show,” “Ladygang,” and “Gals on the Go,” and cumulatively they garner around 5.2 unique million monthly downloads in the U.S. and 32.7 million monthly downlaods globally. It also recently acquired the distribution and ad rights for two new shows, “Causing a Scene with Sara and Natalie” and “I’ve Had It.”
Gray told dot.LA that while the network’s shows run the gamut from sports to true crime to literature, it really targets one demographic in particular: Moms. That’s mainly because ad agencies were eager to capture their purchasing power in households. Ironically, though, female podcast hosts have a harder time selling ads than men, as well as a steeper climb up the charts.
“We created a female network that is second to none,” Gray said. And as such, there’s a lot of content on PodcastOne geared towards women aged 25-44. But this upcoming public offering could give the company a chance to further expand its audience.
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