Back in late August, Endeavor Audio and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announced a partnership that will result in the launch of the WWE Podcast Network. The superstar-focused series will be the wrestling promotion’s first foray into audio programming, though a pair of WWE stars – The Bella Twins – maintain their own pre-existing relationship with audio-first entertainment studio. It won’t be the first time the two companies have worked together. Endeavor Streaming now powers the back-end of the WWE Network platform.
Howie Long-Short: Endeavor Audio creates, produces, develops, markets, monetizes and distributes podcasts, predominantly within the entertainment genre. Sports is a category the company wants to pursue, so partnering with the leader in “sports-entertainment” seems logical. As for WWE, they’re simply the latest sports-centric content producer to embrace digital audio as a medium – following ESPN, The Tennis Channel and The Ringer. While Vince McMahon’s promotion likely could have ventured into the space alone, the company lacks the audio expertise needed to create a truly successful podcast network.
Endeavor sees podcasting “as a way to drive new audiences, to increase revenues and to develop I.P.;” it also happens to be cheaper and faster to produce a podcast than it is to churn out video content. Endeavor audio head of marketing Lisa LaCour cited ‘The Bellas‘ as an example of a podcast that could be monetized beyond “the spots and dots of audio. The girls have a very large rabid fan base, so putting the show on tour, developing merchandise and exploring television and film opportunities are all ways to potentially monetize the I.P.”
Podcasting ad revenues are currently just a small fraction of what brands spend on television spots. That’s because “[podcast] listener numbers are not yet comparable to the television viewing audience” and advertiser interest to date has been limited to direct response businesses (like: Casper and ZipRecruiter). LaCour says, “a good podcast might do 500,000 downloads; the standard number [for a successful podcast] is low, it’s probably closer to 150,000 downloads.” Recent interest from “brand marketers” may be a sign that podcasting revenues will soon begin to close the gap.
Analytics – or a lack thereof – is another headwind in the face of the podcasting business. Beyond downloads, there’s currently little insight that can be gained and conveyed to advertisers. Once the consumer downloads the podcast to their phone, there’s no way to tell if the audio was consumed. Apple’s podcast analytics do show how much of each episode was played across all Apple devices.
If you’re looking for some of the advantages that podcasting has over television, start with what LaCour deems “a very engaged consumer. When television goes to commercial, viewers go to the bathroom. Podcast listeners remain tuned in to what is going on.” Podcasting also gives advertisers the ability to reach a younger demographic with +/- 50% of millennials and Gen-Zs now listening to on-demand audio content.
Speaking of Endeavor, according an SEC filing, the company will raise up to $712 million at a valuation between $7.9 billion and $8.3 billion. More to come on the Endeavor IPO later this week.
Fan Marino: WWE podcasts are going to be news and history centric, but LaCour believes there is also an opportunity for the medium to provide WWE fans with “world extension. When the television show ends, we can finish the world in audio. Because we’re working with the people driving the storylines, we hope to be able to push those boundaries.”
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