CBS launches Play.it, a major podcast network

play-it mobile 250wIn an impactful announcement, CBS launched Play.it, a web-based podcast network. The venture brings CBS’ significant talent assets, program brands, and promotional power to the growing podcast network industry.

The initiative is co-developed by CBS Radio and CBS Local Digital Media. The site is live now, and is stocked with 300 programs to start. Headlining hosts in current promotion include Danny Bonaduce, Boomer & Carton, and Carson Daly. Front-and-center program brands include 60 MinutesCBS Sports Radio48 Hours, and Vox. Podcasts from publishers outside of CBS are included — Vox being one example from independently owned Vox Media.

At launch there are no mobile apps as such, but the site is mobile-optimized for phones, and works well in our initial testing. Users can stream or download episodes, and subscribe to series. Major topical categories at launch are News, Society/Culture, Sports, Business/Tech, and Health/Wellness.

Beyond a business play for CBS, this launch is a marker in the evolution of on-demand spoken-word audio. Traditional radio benefits from a podcast resurgence, as the podcast category stands between non-interactive broadcasting and popular music services which have trained consumers to expect personalized listening. Talk radio is a key pillar of broadcast. As consumers gravitate toward archived radio shows and original podcasts, radio has a natural on-ramp to streaming “share of ear,” with a key advantage over most of the music services.

Competition does exist. Global music service Deezer recently bought Stitcher, merging a large spoken-word catalog of 35,000 podcasts with its music inventory of 35-million tracks. Thanks to the tangled and overlapping distribution map of podcasting, CBS benefits from Stitcher/Deezer combination, as CBS Radio programs are on Stitcher too.

iTunes is the legacy distribution giant in podcasting, acting as a clearinghouse in which you can find current hits and a long tail of shows. Apple’s investment in podcast distribution extends beyond iTunes. The company bolted its native podcast app into iOS 8 as a default feature for the first time. Last July Apple acquired Swell Radio, a podcast listening app that functioned like a Pandora for talk programming.

Independent networks have helped grow the still-young industry and are dynamic businesses. PodcastOne was founded by Norman Pattiz, founder of radio and syndication group WestwoodOne — Pattiz has called podcasting “the savior of radio” and recently completed a deal with the Associated Press for custom-made news bulletins. Midroll Media specializes in comedy programs and hand-crafted native advertising.

iHeartMedia, the largest radio group in the U.S., pushed talk programs in its iHeartRadio online service all through 2014, after launching iHeartRadio Talk in July, 2013.




Brad Hill

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