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'Game of Thrones' was a boon for podcasts, now they have to find the next big thing

Adam Shapiro

The fight for the Iron Throne may be over but a bigger battle is underway among podcasts to win millions of dollars from advertisers and consumers. A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, IAB, predicts podcast advertising will hit $659 million by 2020, a 110% increase since 2017.

A lot of that is driven by arts and entertainment podcasts like “The Nix,” a TV movie and pop culture review podcast. Its latest episode “Dead to Me, Game of Thrones”, streamed on the internet radio platform Stitcher. The current episode ranks second on Stitcher’s list of Top 100 shows with almost 45,000 listeners over the past week. On Apple iTunes, the most popular podcast on Monday, was “Pardon My Take” a sports podcast that included a discussion about the “Game of Thrones” finale.

“Game of Throne” has been a boon for the podcast industry, according to Stitcher CEO Erik Diehn. “The thing about podcasts is they tend to attract an incredibly engaged and passionate listener,” Diehn told Yahoo Finance On the Move, adding that podcasts have become a substitute for the in-person discussions that used to take place at work around the water cooler.

Now that so many popular TV shows are on-demand and not broadcast for free, Diehn expects “Game of Thrones” fans to rewatch favorite episodes and continue discussing the program on podcasts. “They will talk about it for weeks and weeks and weeks and then they will move on to another show,” he said.

The IAB report said arts and entertainment themed podcasts earn the most advertising dollars, 17% of the total spent in 2017. Advertisers want the same “engaged passionate audience” no matter the genre of the podcast because they know they can reach them in a direct way, Diehn said. Some advertisers will adapt their ad campaigns to cater to various fans, “we’ve had advertisers who have had ‘Game of Thrones’-themed advertising within those shows,” he added.

Fans are willing to pay to listen

“Game of Thrones”-themed podcasts helped Stitcher, which offers free podcasts, expand its specialized shows for fans who are willing to pay to listen. A premium account on Stitcher costs $4.99 a month. “You can find people who are willing to support the show directly and pay for it directly so it’s really about finding the right path,“ he said.

But just as “Game of Thrones” fans knew that winter was coming, Diehn expects a chill to blow through big media companies as they compete for talent, consolidate to cut costs and try to find the next big hit. The same is true for podcasts.

“We look at the engagement of the fan to figure out does this talent, does this idea have an existing engagement that we can start to draft off of? What's the quality of the show? What is the commercial potential? What sort of advertisers will work in that format?” said Diehn. “And really, just try and put it all together and look at the history of what's worked, and figure that out.”

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance On the Move.

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