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Amazon Adds Urgency to U.K. Podcast Startup’s Search for Buyers

(Bloomberg) -- Audioboom Group Plc, one of a pack of podcasting startups that enjoyed soaring audiences during lockdown, is in a race to scale up or find a buyer so it can fend off powerful new competitors.

After an aborted reverse takeover of U.S. rival Triton Digital Inc., Audioboom ran a strategic review and sale process last year. While Singapore-based tech investor One Nine Two bought a 9% stake, a well-funded suitor failed to emerge and the company is no longer in active sale talks.

“If a big business is looking to be in the space, and they are looking to acquire a company that is already scaled and has the potential to scale further, then Audioboom is in a prime position to take advantage of that,” Chief Executive Officer Stuart Last said in an interview.

There are plenty of podcast deals being signed. Amazon.com Inc. acquired five-year-old platform Wondery in December, after Sirius XM Holdings Inc. bought Stitcher five months earlier. Last week, Apple Inc. launched a paid podcast subscription product to vie with Spotify Technology SA.

London-based Audioboom spent last year striving to turn its first profit, something it achieved in the first quarter of 2021, and its market value has almost quadrupled to 107 million pounds ($149 million) in the past 12 months.

CEO Last suggested that the relative lack of investor appetite until now is partly the result of contrasting business cultures in Britain and the U.S.

“I think if we were traded in the U.S., the market would be less interested in that break-even point and would be more focused on the revenue growth side of things, and the longer-term move to break-even,” he said.

Audioboom hosts, distributes and promotes audio shows and sells advertising across 9,000 podcast channels. Audioboom originals include “Truth vs Hollywood,” “Huddled Masses,” “Sue Perkins: An Hour Or So With...” and “What Makes A Killer.”

The World Advertising Research Centre forecast in 2019 that podcast advertising could double to $1.6 billion by 2022. With the tech giants now piling into podcasting in search of subscription and digital ad income and data, it’s all about the fight for market share.

Audioboom’s Swedish rival Acast AB announced last month it’s looking at an initial public offering. Legacy media companies are also pivoting toward the nascent industry: Radio network Entercom has bought podcast companies and last month renamed itself Audacy Inc.

British entrepreneur Nick Candy, Audioboom’s biggest investor with a 14.5% stake, said Amazon should take a careful look at the company as “it’s the last big independent left.”

Audioboom cross-promotes shows with similar audiences, while its in-house sales team sells in-episode promotional spots and retroactively inserts automated digital advertising.

“Audioboom is a bit of a hybrid,” said Tom Webster of Edison Research. It’s a platform for hosting content, like Liberated Syndication Inc., yet it also produces original content. “They have a good collection of shows, which takes time and skill to develop, and an international footprint,” said Webster.

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