iHeartMedia to acquire HowStuffWorks (Stuff Media)

iHeartMedia this week announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Stuff Media, the leading for-profit publisher of entertaining and informative podcast content, which includes the HowStuffWorks (HSW) podcasting business as well as a slate of premium podcast content.

iHeartMedia is the biggest U.S. radio broadcaster and Stuff Media is one of the largest podcasting companies by audience size. The price was $55 million, according to WSJ, citing people familiar with the matter.

Originally founded in 1998 as a reference site, HowStuffWorks pioneered the podcast space and was one of the first companies to turn podcasting into a revenue-generating business, bringing the medium to a mainstream audience with its informative, easy-to-understand explanations of how the world works.

According to iHeartMedia, Stuff Media is today one of the US largest podcast publishers, with more than 61 million global downloads and streams per month. Its “Stuff” franchises have attracted a dedicated following for more than a decade, with signature podcast Stuff You Should Know surpassing 500 million downloads this year — the first podcast to surpass half a billion downloads.

Atlanta Monster, a Stuff Media/Tenderfoot TV original true crime podcast that recently partnered with iHeartMedia, became the biggest hit podcast of 2018, and maintained the #1 spot on the podcast ranking charts for four straight weeks. Stuff Media’s Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, TechStuff and BrainStuff podcasts have all reached ten years of podcasting and over 1,000 published episodes milestones. The transaction is subject to bankruptcy court approval.

“While podcasting has already experienced tremendous growth, the real opportunity to bring the full potential of podcasts to the mainstream still lies ahead. Stuff Media is the original trailblazer of the podcasting industry, and we’ve been impressed by its ability to grow a massive, loyal audience over the past decade, led by a strong, experienced and cohesive management team, who we welcome to iHeartMedia. This strategic acquisition will pair Stuff Media’s wildly popular content and strong creative capabilities with iHeartMedia’s extensive resources and massive scale through our digital platforms, social reach and broadcast radio stations, introducing podcasts to the vast majority of the country and offering even more unique opportunities for advertisers to reach their consumers.”

Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia

In 2017, Stuff Media, led by its President and CEO Conal Byrne, raised a growth equity financing round led by The Raine Group, a technology, media and telecommunications global merchant bank, to establish partnerships with industry leaders, grow Stuff Media’s content library across podcasting and other mediums, and invest in top-tier talent.

Conal Byrne will join iHeartMedia as head of its podcast division. Stuff Media’s podcasts will maintain their branding and remain headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia with Byrne continuing as President and CEO of that studio as well. Byrne will report into Darren Davis, President of the iHeartMedia Networks Group and iHeartRadio. Chris Peterson has been promoted to EVP of the podcasting division for iHeartMedia, and will oversee the full slate of iHeartRadio Original podcasts, as well as manage the affiliate relationships for the company, and will report into Byrne.

“HowStuffWorks was a proud pioneer of the podcasting medium more than 10 years ago, and we are truly excited to be taking the next step with iHeart to chart the industry’s course for the next decade. Combining our assets with the #1 audio and media company, and #1 commercial podcast publisher, gives us the unassailable position in the podcasting business and a platform like no one else. No company in the world has iHeart’s audience size and innovative drive, and coupled with the creative engine of Stuff Media, this is a game changer for podcast storytellers and advertisers alike, and I’m honored to be leading this effort.”

Conal Byrne, future Head of Podcast Division, iHeartMedia, Stuff Media, CEO
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