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Podcasters question future of mega licensing deals

Feb 24, 2023

YouTube's panel at Hot Pod Summit. Photo: The Verge/On Air Fest

Podcast dealmaking isn't over but so-called mega licensing deals are fading fast, according to insights gathered at Hot Pod Summit.

Why it matters: Podcast platforms no longer seem as eager to ink multimillion dollar deals amid an ad market slowdown and a reset in the industry, leaving creators and studios to grow independently.

Details: Over the past few years, Spotify, SiriusXM and Amazon signed exclusive licensing deals as they compete for listeners and ad dollars. But when YouTube announced its new investment in podcasting at Hot Pod Summit Thursday, the news did not include content deals.

  • When asked onstage if they planned on commissioning original podcasts or signing exclusive licensing deals, YouTube's head of podcasting Kai Chuk said they were not.
  • "I'm never going to say never," Chuk said. "But certainly our plan for now is really to be focusing on a great product experience, a great user experience that can benefit all podcasters."

State of play: The podcasting industry has been full of doom and gloom narratives over the past month.

  • NPR announced layoffs this week, with the CEO citing a decline in ad dollars, and iHeartMedia cut staff in its podcast division.
  • Both Bloomberg and The New York Times have published features on a slowdown in the podcast market.

Yes, but: The mood at Hot Pod Summit was upbeat.

  • "We're just thinking of different ways of getting funding," Rococo Punch co-founder John Perotti said onstage. "Sometimes it's cutting out the middleman, going directly to a brand and saying, 'Hey, let's just do this.'"
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