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Pandora gets exclusive streaming distribution for Serial’s second season

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Pandora announced today that it will be the “exclusive streaming partner” for the second season of hit podcast Serial. In 2016 the agreement will extend to This American Life, the public radio program which distributes its shows as on-demand podcasts, and which is the creator of Serial.

This initiative is a new programming dimension for Pandora, and a potential source of new audience for Serial. “Pandora reaches millions of people who never listen to public radio or download podcasts,” said Ira Glass, host of This American Life. “This’ll get our shows to them.”

Because long-form narrative podcasting is so different from the normal song library of Pandora tracks, the service will carve each Serial episode into five-minute bites. Pandora calls this “chapterized” content, and promises it will make it easier to listen in portions, and return to a previous leave-off point. The chapters will play continuously for those who want whole episodes.

The launch date for the second season of Serial is undisclosed in this announcement. Season One will likewise be poured into Pandora on November 24, for binge listening over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Serial will still be downloadable from iTunes and other podcast aggregators, while Pandora enjoys the exclusive pure-streaming rights.

Without question, the partnership has unique value for all stakeholders. Pandora jumps on the podcast train. Serial gets exposed to an audience of 78-million monthly users, some of whom have probably heard of Serial but have never figured out how listen to a podcast. And those users get the benefit of easy discovery and playback in an environment they know and love.

Interestingly, this agreement also gives Pandora a block of interactive content that can be accessed and heard on demand, unlike its entire non-interactive music library. Users just add the “Serial” station, and can listen to as much as they want. When users create  station based on a music brand, the first track is usually that artist or brand, and then the Music Genome kicks in with a playlist of which the user has limited control. Spoken-word podcasting is free of music licensing restrictions, and can be thoroughly interactive and on-demand.

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Brad Hill

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