Paramount will be “more judicious” in putting out podcasts this year

Despite revenue increase, EVP says advertisers are becoming more hesitant due to economic climate

Paramount will be launching less podcasts this year, the entertainment giant has announced, as the market slows down due to the current economic climate. 

The announcement was made by Paramount podcasting and audio executive vice president Steve Raizes at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Colorado last Wednesday. According to Raizes, the network will be slowing down the number of new podcasts it launches, moving forward on a “brand by brand” basis.

“It was a phenomenally fun and exciting two years of a lot of big spending in the podcast space, and really big deals and a lot of money and things got a bit frothy,” said Raizes. “What we’re now feeling is a market correction. It’s a ‘come back to Earth.’ Podcasting is going to be governed by actual economics.”

Paramount has invested heavily into podcasting over the past two years, and currently has 120 podcasts across its network, which Raizes admitted is “a lot”. This includes successful podcast titles such as Survivor companion podcast On Fire with Jeff Probst and Rupaul Drag Race’s Squirrel Friends - although Raizes said the company has made a deliberate effort to continue growing the network organically rather than through mergers or acquisitions. 

Despite an overall increase in revenue (up 183% year-on-year) and downloads (up 42% year over year), Raizes said he has noted a “general advertiser hesitancy” due to the current economic climate. 

Confirmed upcoming shows from Paramount include three podcasts around the Star Trek universe, a companion podcast to true-crime reality show 48 Hours, and a number of other true-crime shows, although the overall line-up will be a lot less than before. Another benefit to producing less podcast shows, according to Raizes, is that it will make it a lot easier for listeners to discover other shows by creators that are still developing new series, as “there are too many choices” currently.

“I think all podcasting is going to be in a different state going forward. I think everyone’s going to be a little more buttoned up,” Raizes said. “...We feel very confident in the industry. For all of us, we just have to kind of make it through the next six to nine months."

A number of networks have recently had to reduce their podcast budgets due to current economic conditions. This most recently included non-profit radio organisation NPR which announced that it cut four podcasts from its network and laid off 10% of its staff due to facing $30 million in operating budget loss in February this year.

Additionally, audio giant Spotify also had to lay off 6% of its staff at the end of 2022 due to $200 million in operating loss reported in its quarterly financial statement in Q4. The company blamed heavy podcast investments which included exclusively deals with high profile creators and acquisitions of podcast companies. Spotify also laid off “at least” 38 of its employees across podcast studios that it acquired, Gimlet and Parcast, as well as cancelling 11 original shows due to low performance in October 2022. 

With the increase of consolidation within the podcast market and less stability for podcast job titles, podcast company Maximum Fun decided to transform into an employee-owned organisation rather than allow another organisation to acquire it. The founder, Jesse Thorn, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that he wanted to protect his current employees from being laid off under new ownership. 

“I had been trying to square the circle of how do I back off this stuff without selling out my colleagues or my friends that make the shows,” said Thorn. “...In the end, this is the way to do it that won’t ruin everything and allows the company to be owned and operated by people who I trust who are doing it for the same reasons that I was.”