iHeartMedia has announced the launch of the seven-podcast Nashville Podcast Network, established by syndicated morning show host Bobby Bones, during their presentation at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Upfront in New York on Thursday. The announcement provided notice of the mass media corporation's continued investment into the world of podcasting, a move that seemingly runs counter to its storied history as a radio broadcaster, but one that executives within the company say is a necessary move for their continued growth both inside and outside of the format.
The seven podcasts that make up the Nashville network promise an inside look at the lifestyle and culture found within Music City, and includes Bones' own Bobbycast, which brings its dozens of preexisting episodes and over two million subscribers with it. Among the other offerings featuring Nashville star power behind them will be Good Company with Jake Owen, which features Owen recounting both the good and bad that comes along with being a country music superstar; and Geeking Out with Kristian Bush, which promises to feature Bush -- one half of the platinum selling duo Sugarland -- interviewing guests about what they are currently obsessed with within pop culture.
Inspired by the popularity of the Peabody Award winning Serial and its 80 million downloads, iHeartMedia first entered the world of podcasting in 2015, unveiling an initial dozen podcasts for their then neophyte network. The company has become one of the leaders in bringing podcasts to a public still discovering the format, with the iHeartRadio app introducing its 90 million plus users to both the company's original content, as well as its third-party partners that add thousands of additional podcast options.
The news of the San Antonio based company's continued push into the world of podcasting is a confirmation of iHeartMedia's sustained mission statement of turning itself into a major player amongst multiplatform digital brands. Bob Pittman entered the company as CEO in 2011, and immediately began working on reducing its debt of $20.5 billion, a product of both a private equity takeover in 2008 and a global recession that depleted advertising revenue from radio stations. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, industry revenue dropped 9 percent in 2008, and a further 18 percent in 2009.
That is in sharp contrast to the recent news that the podcasting industry is expected to earn more than $220 million in advertising sales by the end of 2017, according to a study released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The study was the first of its kind, which was able to gain insight into the financial working of the biggest players in the industry, showed a phenomenal increase in advertising revenue over a three year period. Working only with companies that volunteered for the study, it illustrates that ad revenue has basically doubled in each of the past three years, with 2015 showing a total of $69 million that grew to $119 million in 2016.
In an attempt to right the ship, Pittman has emphasized the digital power at the company, instructing sales reps to highlight iHeartMedia's multiplatform opportunities to both new and existing sponsors. While that approach has been met with some pushback from small businesses at the local level, many within the company point toward a streak of quarterly revenue growth as a sign of its success.
The interest iHeartMedia has shown in podcasting indicates that it is looking towards recent accounts of upswings in podcasting advertising sales as a new avenue of reducing the total debt within the company, which stood at $20.38 billion on June 30th, up slightly from $20.37 billion on December 31st. The company recently had to concede in SEC filings that these debt obligations are so crippling that it may not make it out of 2018 without filing for bankruptcy.
For his part, Bones is just excited to remain the public face for the company, and now is the most popular one within its podcasting ranks. Reached for comment by Billboard, the radio personality stated, "I'm just trying to create a network of digital content for normal people to enjoy. My goal is to bring the fun, culture, music and lifestyle of middle America to the Podcast world. Everyone is welcome."
The full list of podcasts coming to the Nashville Podcast Network is as follows:
BobbyCast: iHeartMedia's Bobby Bones goes behind-the-scenes in Nashville with BobbyCast, a podcast featuring songwriters, artists and candid conversations about the inner workings of Nashville's music scene and Bones' nationally syndicated The Bobby Bones Show.
Velvet's Edge with Kelly Henderson: Based on the blog VelvetsEdge.com, this podcast will feature fashion, beauty, lifestyle and travel from one of Nashville's most prominent female tastemakers and taste finders.
The Frontline Generation with Marjorie K. Eastman: This is a “hero" podcast, sharing the inspiring stories of people who have found a way to serve, to give back, those who have stepped up to help. Award winning author Marjorie K. Eastman, a combat veteran herself, will interview frontline leaders, from veterans, law enforcement, first responders, philanthropists and more.
Good Company with Jake Owen: Jake Owen has numerous No. 1 albums and hits, including personal songs that reflect on his own life. This podcast takes listeners a step further as Owen dives into the good and bad sides of being a country music superstar.
Whiskey Riff Raff: The creators of the popular Country Music site WhiskeyRiff.com talk raw and candidly from the perspective of country music fans. These podcasts are uncensored, highly opinionated and often involve a lot of alcohol.
Geeking Out with Kristian Bush: Fans matter, and everybody is a fan of SOMETHING. Kristian Bush, one-half of the Grammy-winning duo Sugarland, talks to people from all walks of life about what they’re geeking out over, and shares his own musical obsessions along the way.
BoBo and Mikey: This is a podcast for kids ages four to eight, featuring two larger-than-life characters BoBo and Mikey. Each episode will include an educational lesson with the fun feel of listening to a cartoon.