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Podcasts and Streaming Changes the Game for ESPN Radio

August 13, 2015

According to Insideradio, ESPN Radio Network’s streaming attracted 2.5 billion total listening minutes in the second quarter, thus representing an increase of 31% over the last year. ESPN Senior Director for Digital Audio Strategy, Patrick Polking, attributes the positive growth to the increased presence of streaming services and podcasts throughout the internet, which concurrently helps drive listeners to ESPN’s streams. As he puts it, “more visibility for streaming lifts all boats.”

Polking also said that remarkable gains “begin with great content.” The first-ever College Football National Championship game, which saw the Ohio State Buckeyes defeat the Oregon Ducks, drew 69,000 listeners in an average minute across their various platforms, which was a 103% increase from the 2014 National Championship game. The NBA and MLB would also register small gains. During the same period, ESPN-related podcasts saw a 27 percent jump, which translates to about 90 million downloads. According to the same report, listening on desktop and mobile devices account for 25% of all consumed ESPN audio, with the other 75% coming from a combination of terrestrial radio, satellite radio, and on-demand.

According to the article, “The Rising Popularity of Podcasts: Why Listeners Are Rediscovering Podcasts,” written by Natalie Wires, the author shares the following discoveries:

  • According to a USA Today article titled, “Remember podcasting? It’s back – and booming,” Apple has surpassed 1 billion subscriptions for podcasts via iTunes.
  • Stitcher, a podcast streaming app, has seen its available podcasts grow from 5,000 in 2011 to 18,000 in 2013.
  • A just-released Edison Research report stated that an estimated 39 million Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month—an all-time high.
  • Six of the top ten podcasts in the United States are created by public media such as Radio Lab and Freakonomics Radio from WNYC.
  • According to the Podcast Consumer May 2012 Edison Research study, the podcast audience skews young (half of all listeners are age 12-34) and affluent (4 in 10 podcast listeners have a household income of at least $75,000).

With the rise of smart televisions, smart phones, wearable technology, and the globe now operating on a perpetual Wi-Fi network with regards to doing business and consuming entertainment, it’s a safe assumption that the digital medium will continue to grow in a positive direction. However, it is important to note that the digital medium’s positive growth does not necessarily mean a decline for radio.

Seth Stevenson’s article, “Don’t Count AM/FM Radio Out Just Yet,” quotes from Pew’s State of the Media report from earlier this year, which states that “in 2013 a full 91 percent of Americans 12 and up listened to traditional radio at least once per week. That number is barely changed from 2012, or for that matter from 2002.” Radio is still a strong and consistent force when considering media-purchasing options in order to get your advertising message heard. The growth of podcasting and digital streaming does not necessarily have to serve as a competitive force but rather a complementary force, and ESPN and public radio’s success on different ends of the spectrum have proven this to be true thus far.

-L.D. Williams Jr, Research Specialist

The following sources contributed to this report: