Sirius earnings: Bullish on podcasting despite cyclical softness

The Q4 earnings call for SiriusXM featured comments from CEO Jennifer Wurtz and President / Chief Content Officer Scott Greenstein.

“The economics of podcasting got a little out of hand, to say the least. And as you can see, the pullback is going on right now. And yet, it’s a robust source, in some ways, uniquely for us.” –Scott Greenstein, Chief Content Officer

The presentation revealed that podcasts drove a 34% increase in off-platform podcast listening in full-year 2022. Then there is this: “Our audience-based podcast products, including Podcast Everywhere and Podcast Select, as well as programmatic podcasts are up 153% year over year. This part of our offering provides greater efficiency through automation, which is still nascent in podcasting, making it a fantastic opportunity for us.”

Sirius noted that gross profit decline was driven by podcasting investment. The earnings call characterized podcasting as “a corner of the audio entertainment market that we expect will yield greater monetization opportunities over time as the business evolves.”

The company noted that non-Pandora podcast revenue (within the non-subscription portion of SiriusXM) grew 24% in full-year 2022, and represented 38% of total advertising business in the year.

“Podcasting has some similarities to the early growth of SiriusXM.” –Scott Greenstein, Chief Content Officer, SiriusXM

Notwithstanding successes with podcasting, the category was not immune to Q4 softness described in the call, as noted by Jennifer Wetz:

Podcasting is not immune to these forces but does remain a bright spot for the business. […] In a challenging ad market, podcasts continue to be a growth opportunity for us. This past quarter, we expanded our podcast offerings while doubling down on the shows that have proven most successful.” [mention of Crime Junkie, Office Ladies, Dateline NBC, Pod Save America, and Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.]

Brad Hill