Podcast licensing deals ‘need to calm down’ says Global content chief

James Rea described industry’s big-ticket content purchases as “eye-watering”

HIgh-profile podcast content licensing deals “need to just calm down”, Global’s director of broadcasting and content James Rea has said, describing some of the amounts as “eye-watering”. 

Speaking at this year’s annual Radiodays Europe conference in Prague, Rea noted that the explosion of interest in the podcast market has resulted in acquisition and licensing deals for podcast content and IP that have reached very steep levels.

“Podcasts found this new lease of life during the pandemic and through lockdown, and that has led to real sort of frenzy in the market, and a real race for content,” he said. “I think some of the deals that have been done have been pretty eye-watering… I think some of those need to just calm down, and I think that just needs to be tempered.” 

Spotify has been one of the most active players in this regard, making headlines with multi-million-dollar licensing deals for podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, Alex Cooper’s Call Her Daddy, and Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast, which are collectively thought to have cost the platform almost $300 million.

Global itself has cut a number of high-profile deals for podcast talent over the past several years, most notably tempting Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall, the hosts of its smash-hit daily podcast The News Agents, away from Sky News and the BBC. Maitlis and Sopel, in particular, reportedly landed significant pay rises on their six-figure BBC salaries.

Rea has been heavily involved in Global’s recent push into podcasting, including the launch of The News Agents, and highlighted the importance of podcasts within the broadcaster’s wider plans. However, he also stated that the bulk of the organisation’s focus remains on its linear radio business.

“I think the exciting thing is the new audiences it is bringing into audio, and as a programmer, it's given me and my team a real lift,” he said. “It's a real creatively exciting area. So yeah, I think podcasting is a really big part of this audio landscape – not forgetting that live radio is still the driving force.”