Public media owners agree to sell Pocket Casts podcast platform

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The public broadcasters who own Pocket Casts are selling the podcast platform, less than a year after it was declared public media’s “answer to Spotify.

A board made up of representatives of Pocket Casts’ owners — NPR, New York Public Radio, Chicago Public Media and BBC Studios Americas — agreed in December to sell the platform, according to NPR’s latest audited financial report.

Pocket Casts CEO John Gibbons did not respond to Current’s questions, calling the situation a “fluid event.” Gibbons referred questions to board chair Matt Moog, interim CEO at Chicago Public Media. Moog did not respond to Current’s questions about the sale. 

NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara told Current that “the plan of a sale” of Pocket Casts is in “early stages of development.” Lara did not respond to other questions about the sale. 

NPR, New York Public Radio and Chicago Public Media acquired Pocket Casts in 2018, with each taking a one-third ownership stake. The organizations formed Podcast Media LLC, which operates the podcast platform and is governed by a board of representatives from each organization. 

BBC Studios Americas acquired a small ownership stake last year in Pocket Casts — about 3.4%, according to the NPR AFR. NPR and NYPR increased their ownership stake to 34.6% each, while CPM decreased its stake to about 27.5%.

NPR’s financial statement showed that Pocket Casts had a net loss in the network’s fiscal year 2020. NPR’s share of the loss was more than $800,000. 

Under its public media ownership, the app was made free to download after previously costing $3.99.

2 thoughts on “Public media owners agree to sell Pocket Casts podcast platform

  1. Another pub radio fail. Organizing the organizations in public radio is like herding cats. CPB needs to go to congress to reorganize the whole system. Get it under one owner, and streamline it. Discuss.

    • Consolidating decisions would streamline the medium-size failures into system-wide catastrophes. Now-autonomous nonprofits would disconnect from the new group.

      If station licensees were required to join, many would divest transmitters — with unpredictable and convulsive effects, some possibly positive.

      By losing broadcast licenses, incumbent stations would lose the distinguishing local franchise that gives them responsibilities (including universal free service) as well as taxpayer aid.

      Key question: Would Congress and the FCC take further steps to move more universal free services (except those for mobile listeners) to join universal free Internet. That would be a great boon for equity and other public gains, and federal policy seems to be heading there, anyway. “Public media” as now constituted need to figure out how they would fit would in.

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