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Scripps to acquire Triton

Scripps, the Cincinnati-based media organization announced yesterday that it is moving to acquire Triton, the digital audio technology company, for $150 million. Triton, which utilizes a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model, is projected to make around $40 million in revenue this year, according to the press release. Under the Scripps banner, it will operate as an independent subsidiary.

Some things I think you should probably know:

  • Scripps, of course, is the parent company of Midroll Media, which it acquired in 2015 for $50 million. It also acquired Stitcher, the podcast app, for $4.5 million in 2016, and integrated it with Midroll Media. Don’t forget that Midroll is now technically known as Stitcher, following a rebranding earlier this year. It’s a whole thing.
  • Triton serves both streaming and on-demand audio clients, but as far as the latter is concerned — this is Hot Pod, fellas — you can think of the company in two ways: it has a business providing podcast infrastructure and ad-insertion solutions (which means it competes with platforms like Megaphone, Art19, Libsyn, and so on for potential clients), and it has another business measuring and creating data around downloads, listens, and other associated audio consumption behavior (which means it theoretically competes with Podtrac for measurement and verification). Triton’s client list includes NPR, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart, Entercom, and Cumulus.

We’re swinging into some wonky, ~strategery~, and broader digital audio ecosystem territory, which I generally wobble between feeling extremely excited to think through and extremely bored because the radio/streaming world often feels really… I suppose you can say set-in-stone.

But I’m intrigued by this one, so I shot off a few basic questions to Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson to get some context around Scripps’ strategy and thinking on the move.

Could you talk a little more specifically about how this acquisition improves Scripps’ position in the digital audio space, both in terms of streaming and on-demand audio?
We’ve long been bullish on the digital audio marketplace given our position with Stitcher and Midroll. This acquisition helps Scripps continue its strategy of capitalizing on changing consumer behaviors in digital audio, to include both streaming and on-demand. As consumers increasingly turn toward streaming audio and podcasting, and as the revenue generated by that industry grows globally, Scripps and Triton will be poised to capture more of that value. While Stitcher is a consumer-facing business, Triton operates with a B2B model, allowing us to diversify our revenue streams while still sitting at the center of an important and growing industry.

While Triton will operate as an independent business within our national division, there are certainly ways we expect Stitcher and Triton will partner.

Could you help me better understand Scripps’ broader audio strategy? I’m thinking, in particular, of the fact that you guys sold off the last of your radio stations earlier this summer. How does that move square with what we’re seeing here with the Triton acquisition?

In the case of our radio assets, given the current state of consolidation in that industry, we knew that our radio stations and our employees would be better served in the hands of owners totally dedicated to radio. We were pleased that all four buyers of our radio stations are regionally focused, growing companies.

Triton is a company focused on the future of audio. Consumers are listening to digital audio, whether it comes from traditional radio companies or from pure play digital audio companies like Spotify and Pandora. Triton can serve the entire ecosystem with both its infrastructure and measurement services. Scripps is opportunistic about businesses that align with our growth strategies and operating performance goals.

How will the Triton acquisition impact what Scripps has been doing with podcasts, i.e. Stitcher?

Triton already provides infrastructure services to companies for podcast hosting and ad insertion. We would expect that line of business to naturally expand as the market grows. There will certainly be opportunities for collaboration between Stitcher and Triton in the future on the technology side, though each business is run independently. As for the question of measurement, today Triton is the only MRC* accredited service for the measurement of streaming audio.

* Editor’s Note: MRC refers to the Media Rating Council, a non-profit that manages accreditation for media measurements, research, and rating purposes. Digiday has called MRC accreditation “the most important currency in the digital ad space.” Also, it has a hilariously lo-fi website.