E.W. Scripps is building out its podcasting business with the $4.5 billion purchase of Stitcher, an app for discovering and listening to podcasts, from French music streaming service Deezer.
The app, which offers its 8 million registered users access to more than 65,000 podcasts, will operate as a part of Scripps subsidiary Midroll Media, the podcast producer and ad network that the media conglomerate acquired in July.
The acquisition of Stitcher, which is the No. 2 most-popular podcast listening app on iPhones behind Apple’s own Podcasts service, puts Midroll on track to become a formidable player in the podcasting industry. The company, which produces shows like Comedy Bang Bang and How Did This Get Made, already sells advertising for a number of top podcasts, including WTF With Marc Maron and the Bill Simmons Podcast Network, and has subscription app Howl but had been lacking in a wide distribution platform. “They control that last mile between us and the listener, and that is the one piece of the space that we don’t have a ton of control over already,” explains Erik Diehn, vp business development at Midroll.
The deal comes less than two years after Deezer acquired the venture-backed startup for an undisclosed price as part of a push into new forms of audio content. But it appears that the Paris-based streaming service was looking to offload the app. Diehn tells The Hollywood Reporter that the acquisition was “somewhat opportunistic” and came together after Midroll learned that it was for sale. “It’s going to take some time to figure out how [Howl and Stitcher] work together,” he acknowledges. “At some point those two will intersect, but we do not know exactly how that will happen.”
In the meantime, Stitcher’s 12-person team will operate out of San Francisco, with general manager and vp product Todd Pringle stepping in to oversee product development at Midroll. Stitcher’s sales and editorial teams will be integrated into existing Midroll teams.
Diehn says that Midroll’s focus on podcasting and audio storytelling makes it a logical partner to help grow Stitcher’s business. “Midroll is focused on spoken word audio and podcasts and journalism and storytelling and that has always been Stitcher’s core strength,” he says. “We’re really getting back to what it was built for.”