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SiriusXM reportedly will buy Stitcher from Scripps

After 48 hours of rumors, today we get … well, sort-of confirmation that SiriusXM will acquire Stitcher from E.W.Scripps. The confirmation part is from the Wall Street Journal, which seems confident: “SiriusXM to Buy Stitcher.” The sort-of part is the article’s first sentence: “Sirius XM Holdings Inc. is near a deal to buy E.W. Scripps Co.’s Stitcher Inc. podcasting unit for around $300 million, according to people familiar with the matter.”

“Near to a deal” isn’t “finalized a deal,” and there is no visible confirmation from Sirius, Stitcher, or Scripps. But, as of this morning, industry-wide assumption is that the deal is all but done … in a “poised to buy” sort of way.

This acquisition adds a chapter in the corporate life of each company involved:

  • For Stitcher, it is obviously the movement from one parent-company culture to another. Stitcher — which contains the listening app of that name, plus the Midroll Media podcast advertising sales unit, plus legendary comedy network Earwolf — was put together within Scripps. The multi-channel media giant first acquired Midroll (plus Earwolf) in 2015, then later grabbed Stitcher from Deezer in 2016. (Deezer had acquired Stitcher as an indie podcast listening app. At that time, Stitcher represented about 4% of podcast listening.) Scripps basically gave Stitcher to Midroll. Eventually, the brand order was switched so that the consumer-facing Stitcher brand was the mark which encompassed the entire operation — distribution, ad sales, and content creation.
  • For Scripps, the deal clarifies the company mission (mainly a TV station holding company) and makes good on its investment. The WSJ reports a sale price of $300-million. Stitcher has done well for Scripps, playing a featured role in quarterly earnings, and growing its top-line revenue to about $75-million. Scripps now is substantially exited from audio, having divested its radio stations at about the same time it invested in podcasting.
  • The exact rationale for SiriusXM is not yet articulated, but we expect that to change quickly — the company was crystal clear about its plans to leverage the Pandora acquisition quickly after the deal was done (which was in 2018 for $3.5-billion). Much of the strategy and product roll-out has been focused on cross-promoting Sirius and Pandora products to the two somewhat unduplicated audiences, and culling maximum investment of loyalty and dollars from its free and subscription services.

In addition to executive talent, Sirius will acquire successful content assets — about 50 podcasts including Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and Freakonomics. Stitcher/Midroll sells ads to media buyers in about 250 podcasts.

 

Brad Hill

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