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iHeart’s Conal Byrne Sees No Slowdown In Appetite For Nostalgia-Based Podcasts.

The pandemic may have opened the door to nostalgia over classic ‘80s and ‘90s television series and Conal Byrne, CEO of the iHeart Digital Audio Group, sees no sign that Americans’ appetite for rewatch podcasts is slowing down. In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Byrne says “it's a bit of a surprise” to see how well the category is performing.

The biggest rewatch series for iHeartMedia so far is the Fake Doctors Real Friends podcast that features actors Zach Braff and Donald Faison rewatching the “Scrubs” television series. During the quarantine, Byrne said it had five million downloads each month as the two men talked about classic episodes and whatever else popped into their minds.

“I think what's driving this is, yes, the resurfacing of older IP in streaming platforms, but also sort of, more interestingly, maybe, this push toward nostalgia and connecting with friends through driving community in a whole new way through podcasting that we didn't predict, but has just exploded,” said Byrne.

Podtrac says iHeart is the top podcast network in the U.S. with 431 million downloads and streams during June and Byrne said big numbers aren’t all that unusual for shows from any genre.

“Many shows that we launch reach that sort of bright line of 500,000 or a million downloads a month very quickly,” Byrne said, pointing to the ability to promote new series on iHeart’s 850 radio stations. “It still feels like podcasting is just getting started. There are entire genres that podcasting is just now dipping its toe in the water of-- the travel genre, the food genre, the fiction drama,” he said. “We've put out 10 or 15 really high class, high quality scripted series-- some of them with the best creators in the world, like Will Packer and Shonda Rhimes. But it feels like we're just cracking open what these genres can do in audio. I feel like we're in the first, second inning.”

iHeart publishes 685 different podcasts and Byrne also told Yahoo Finance he continues to see advantages to owning content rather than simply being a distributor of shows.

“Being a publisher means you own and control shows,” he said. “You own and control RSS feeds that distribute content out to the masses. And most importantly, you own the business, the economics around those shows. You control the ad loads in those shows -- the economics flow back to the publisher.”

Byrne credited that business model with being able to strike deals with creators like Will Ferrell, Shonda Rhimes and Charlamagne Tha God – all of which have created their own podcast content studios in a partnership with iHeart.

“I simply want to get you the biggest audience possible so I can monetize it as much as possible and distribute it everywhere that we show up, which is everywhere the podcast industry is today,” said Byrne “That's made that conversation with creators make a lot of sense to them and have them jump in fast.”

Watch the full interview with Yahoo Finance HERE.

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