Issue 178,  published September 25, 2018

SiriusXM to officially acquire Pandora

SiriusXM, the satellite radio giant, announced yesterday that it is officially moving to acquire Pandora, the streaming music service, for $3.5 billion in an all-stock deal. This development doesn’t exactly come out of the blue; as Recode’s Peter Kafka pointed out, SiriusXM already invested $480 million in Pandora for a 19% stake last summer which, while not a straight-up acquisition, definitely set the scene for the relationship between the two companies to lead to this end. The benefits for either side is pretty clear: the satellite radio giant, operating in a traditional linear broadcasting environment that can only grow so much more, is buying into the internet, and the streaming music service needs help and more resources to compete against Spotify, Apple Music, and so on.

This is obviously a pretty big media deal, but why should you, the podcast newsletter-reading constituency, care about what happens between a satellite radio company and a music streaming company?

Some reminders:

  • Pandora has been gearing up for some sort of big push into podcasts — or podcast-style content, or whatever term you prefer if you’re one of those people that associated the word with the technical ecosystem. As far as back as January, Pandora CEO Roger Lynch has been signalling strong intent to build a “Podcast Genome Project” as a way to insert the company into the industry’s discovery and monetization efforts. I imagine this is, in part, some response to Spotify’s (very) slowly but steadily increasing participation in the podcast ecosystem. Pandora’s involvement in podcasting is already out in the open: the company serves as the “exclusive streaming partner” for Serial and This American Life.
  • SiriusXM, as you might remember, is a strong presence in the car dashboard, and this acquisition would theoretically strengthen Pandora’s brand — and infrastructure — within the context of car entertainment systems. Depending on how Pandora’s adventures with podcasting goes, this could be a way for podcasts to greatly expand their exposure to everyday people who drive connected cars (insofar as normal everyday people drive connected cars. Shout-out to my totally analog beat-up red Subaru Forester.)

On a completely related note: Crimetown, the pulpy Gimlet Media podcast from The Jinx’s Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, is coming back next month, and the new season will cover the city of Detroit. And as I noted on Vulture, the new season will be exclusive available on Spotify, though the show is planning to distribute the first episode in all the places you can usually find podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and so on. The second episode and every subsequent installment will be found only on Spotify.