Swedish podcast company, which launched back in April 2014, is
officially pushing into France. CEO Ross Adams hinted at the move when I spoke to him back in December,
around the time of their 35 million Series C funding round that
expansion into non-English language markets were a big part of the
strategy for the next two years. Adams, who helped to launch Spotify in
the UK back in 2008, has brought on another exec from the also-Swedish
music streaming giant to spearhead this French expansion: Yann Thébault,
former managing director of Continental Europe for Spotify, joins to
lead operations there.
“Last year was a tipping point for podcast consumption,” Thébault told me. “Right now in France there are about four million people listening [to podcasts] on a monthly basis. It’s not a fully developed market yet, but it’s growing very quickly… there have been a lot of new show launches in the past year.” That data point, by the way, comes from Médiamétrie’s ‘Écoute des Podcasts’ report from April 2018, which you should check out.
France also traditionally has a strong radio sector, which is still very much reflected in the podcast output there. “About 85 percent of the market is dominated by [radio] replays, which means that about 15 per cent is
native and growing quickly.” This is the segment of the market
that Acast is banking on for success in its French operation — they’re
hoping that by entering early, they’ll be the monetisation platform of
choice once the space has expanded and matured a little more. This
approach has certainly worked for them in the UK, which is a comparison
that Thébault referenced in our discussion too: “I see the French market
— I mean, in so far as we can compare market to market — as like the UK
two years ago,” he said.
One of the biggest trends in original French podcasting, he said, was feminism, and there are also several new and influential women-run podcast production houses in France. We profiled one of them, Louie Media, last summer, and they, along with House of Podcasts, were also recently written up by the Bello Collective. Beyond women and LGBTQ-centred shows like La Poudre, Thébault said that “food,” “crime,” and “social justice” were also content areas rapidly growing in popularity.
Acast France seems to be starting small. The branch just finalised the contract with their third employee, a director of sales, who starts work in April, and Thébault notes that he already has a director of content working on staff. They plan to increase their headcount more rapidly “once we secure our first publisher agreement to sell and monetize their content.” The goal for now, Thébault explained, is to get podcasts on their platform, both from established media houses and independent producers. The aim is to spot “tomorrow’s talents,” he said, with the hope of monetising these smaller shows once they grow in the future.
Thebault claims that French advertisers are already fairly well informed as to the benefits of advertising on podcasts — the logic being, they’re well used to commercial internet radio stations and streaming platforms like Spotify and Deezer. (Whether you buy into this logic… is your call.) “In France, the digital audio market represents around twelve million euros,” he said. “That’s not a huge market but it’s growing very fast.” The strong representation of feminist and women-centric podcasts works well with commercial deals too, with luxury good, fashion and beauty all interested in that segment of the podcast audience.
Small start for Thébault and Acast France, and they’re betting hard on seeing a similar podcast growth trajectory there as in the UK and elsewhere. It’s long been reported that Acast is looking at eventually going list on the Swedish stock market. Getting into nascent podcast markets like France (and possibly Germany and Spain next, I would imagine), then, is likely a move to lay down a substantial European division down the line, which arguably gives them a growth narrative with some runway.