ART19 swoops into South Korea, the world’s most podcast-y country

ART19, the podcast technology and advertiser services company, has announced an ambitious and acquisitive move into South Korea, a country with 51-million people who are more engaged with podcasts than any other national population in the world.

The company’s strategy is multi-pronged and clearly intended to establish dominance:

  • ART19 has acquired BirchSound, the country’s largest domestic podcast ad seller. Exact metrics are not included in the announcement; ART19 says BirchSound owns “a significant share of the country’s podcast market.”
  • Along with that acquisition ART19 is forming a new subsidiary, ART19 Korea. Hansoo Kim, Founder and CEO of BirchSound, steps in as CEO of the new unit. Kim charted an executive course through two of the largest and most influential media companies in South Korea, building relationships with American media juggernauts NBC, Viacom, and ESPN.
  • ART19 has created exclusive deals with South Korea’s leading media companies: broadcasters SBS, KBS, CBS, and newspaper publisher Chosun Ilbo. ART19 calls the deals “all encompassing,” and include enterprise hosting, exclusive global ad sales, and co-producing new content.

South Korea has the world’s most engaged podcast audience, according to the 2018 Reuters Global Media Report. Fifty-eight percent of the population listens to podcasts monthly, and on-fifth of the population considers podcasts “an everyday staple in their lives,” according to local research firm Embrain (as represented by Ozy). By contrast, 21% of the American 12+ population listens to podcasts monthly (The Infinite Dial 2019 by Edison Research and Triton Digital.)

ART19 CEO (and RAIN Summit speaker) Sean Carr sees the sprawling footprint in South Korea’s podcast market as an extension of early initiatives and a harbinger of larger market development in Asia: “ART19 has benefited greatly as an early mover in the US podcast market, and we are aiming to replicate this success internationally. We are honored to launch our efforts in South Korea with such an esteemed group of publishers. SBS is the leading radio broadcaster, Chosun is the number one newspaper, and KBS is both the country’s public and top overall broadcaster. Podcasting is seeing tremendous growth in South Korea, and we believe it will be a model for growth in Asia and around the world.”

ART19 Korea is being set up with the same business  profile as ART19, a connecting force for publishers (via hosting technology) and advertisers (via audience targeting). Here are the specs of the four partnerships included in today’s announcement:

SBS: Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) has been the only listed national South Korean television and radio network company since 1990. Along with its flagship terrestrial channel, SBS Media Group operates 2 radio stations, 7 cable TV channels including SBS-CNBC and SBS MTV, which are joint ventures with American networks. SBS’ four channels, SBS HD, SBS Plus, SBS Star and SBS18, provide unparalleled access to SBS’ critically-acclaimed and top-rated content including dramas, sports, news and variety programs and are distributed on terrestrial TV and major MVPDs to 15 million households throughout the US.

Chosun Media: The Chosun Ilbo first hit newsstands in 1920 and now celebrates almost a century of journalistic excellence thanks to the unwavering support of readers over the years. It has grown into what it is today by sharing both tears and laughter with generations of readers. Based on strong expertise in news reporting, Chosun Ilbo has evolved into one of Korea’s largest media groups, Chosun Media, encompassing a wide range of subsidiaries from broadcast and new media to publishing.

KBS: Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) is Korea’s leading public services broadcaster and the most influential media organization in the country. KBS is run by both licence fees and income from the advertisements to operate its three TV, seven radio and four DMB channels. KBS began the country’s first radio broadcasting service back in 1927 and commenced Korea’s first television broadcasting in 1961. The headquarters of KBS is located at Yeouido in Seoul. There are 18 regional stations and 11 overseas bureaus as well as eight subsidiary companies such as KBS Media which manages the local and global marketing of KBS content.

CBS: CBS first went on air on December 15, 1954 as the first independent radio station in Korea. Having been operated as a nationwide radio network for more than 50 years, CBS met the greatest change in its history in 2002, when it opened its own television station. Today CBS is engaged in all forms of mass communications: radio, television broadcasting, internet and smart media. CBS radio’s nationwide network consists of 14 branches, and CBS TV provides programs via cable and satellite to the Korean peninsula and other parts of East Asia.



Brad Hill