E.W. Scripps Acquires Podcast Network Midroll Media

Adam Sachs - S 2015
Courtesy of Midroll

Adam Sachs - S 2015

Among the company's 200 podcast partners is 'WTF With Marc Maron.'

The boom in podcasting over the last year has made an impact on one Hollywood company.

Midroll Media, which operates an advertising network for podcasts including WTF With Marc Maron and Nerdist, has been acquired for an undisclosed price by E.W. Scripps Co. 

Sale talks began last fall when momentum around the podcasting space began to heat up — due in large part to the popularity of This American Life spinoff Serial — and Midroll saw an uptick in interest from potential investors and acquirers, says CEO Adam Sachs. The profitable company wasn't interested in taking outside investment and began to consider an acquisition. "We realized that there might be companies out there who could help us do what we're doing, who potentially shared our vision and could help us achieve our goals more quickly," Sachs adds.

Midroll ultimately found the right partner in Scripps, the more than 100-year-old media company known for its portfolio of TV and radio stations. "Scripps has had a history of always evolving to stay in the front of the media business," says Scripps chief digital officer Adam Symson. "When I look at where podcasting and streaming audio is today, it's obvious that this is a platform that's going to be really critical and important for the future of media. We're planting a huge flag in this ecosystem, and we're really excited about what the future will hold."

The two companies have also found that they are more aligned than not. In May, Sachs and the Midroll management team flew to Scripps' Cincinnati headquarters to meet CEO Rich Boehne and the Scripps digital team. There, in a conference room, both companies read their missions and discovered that they were focused on the same principals: informing and empowering the media. 

"There's so much overlap between our missions that we had a goose bumps moment in the room," says Sachs. "We couldn't help but feel like it was a really great fit." 

More practically, Scripps will help Midroll find access to wider distribution and a new set of advertisers who haven't traditionally spent money in the podcasting space. Midroll currently works with more than 240 brands including HBO, Hulu and website builder Squarespace.  

Midroll began in 2010 as comedy podcast network Earwolf, founded by comedian Scott Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich. Earwolf merged with podcast advertising network The Mid Roll last year to create Midroll Media. Today, the 35-person company runs an advertising network that works with more than 200 podcasts and operates two comedy and pop culture-focused networks, Earwolf and Wolfpop, which produce podcasts including Comedy Bang Bang and Kevin Pollak's Chat Show

Midroll will remain based in Hollywood and will continue to be led by Sachs, who says he's got a number of projects lined up, including the launch of a new consumer-facing business. Midroll also recently created its own podcast listening app, Howl, that combines photos and community elements for each podcast. 

"The space is getting competitive with all of this interest, so for us to be able to partner with a company like Scripps that has such a reach in terms of their media and their advertisers, that was just too appealing for us to pass up," Sachs says.