A one percent month-to-month increase for iHeartRadio combined with a five percent drop in NPR’s reach has resulted in another change at the top of Podtrac’s monthly report on the biggest podcast publishers. It said iHeart had a unique monthly U.S. audience of more than 24.6 million in July, putting it ahead of NPR for the third time in the past four months. NPR remained close behind with a reach of nearly 24.1 million.
“It's no accident that NPR and iHeart go back and forth over who is No. 1 overall and that we have a two-to-one lead over the next largest podcaster,” said iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman. During a conference call with analysts on Thursday, he said not only do both companies have the ability to promote their shows on the radio, but there is a commonality between the two mediums that work in their favor, especially in a time of social distancing. “We find that in successful podcasts it’s very host driven just like radio, and that people want that companionship,” said Pittman. “They like somebody keeping them company. They like the conversation even — it’s like telling them a story. They like hearing that voice.”
The New York Times remained in third place as its podcast The Daily continues to drive most of its listening, although Podtrac said its unique audience in July was 10% less than what the company had in June. The Daily now has more than 3.5 million average downloads for the podcast, which is nearly twice what it had a year ago. COO Meredith Kopit Levien said this week that it demonstrates the “resilience” of the podcast during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders.
Barstool Sports held fourth place with a 2% month-to-month gain, reports Podtrac, suggesting its rise had more to do than with just controversies that erupted among a few shows. And Wondery’s audience rose 7%, enough for it to reclaim a top five finish, pushing PRX back to sixth place.
The return of sports resulted in ESPN having the biggest month-to-month move in the top ten. Its unique U.S. podcast audience topped 7.5 million last month. That was a 38% jump from June as the sports network benefited from the return to action on baseball diamonds, golf courses and basketball courts. It also benefited from the inclusion of ABC News-produced podcasts into its network, putting an asterisk on the month-to-month comparison.
Rounding out the top ten were NBC News, which was off 1% month-to-month, WarnerMedia, which returned to the top ten thanks to a 16% gain from June, and WestwoodOne/Cumulus, which slid 4%. Kast Media, which had been in the top ten in June, fell to No. 12 in July.
Boston public radio broadcaster WBUR also made an appearance on Podtrac’s monthly ranker, with more than seven million downloads and a unique U.S. audience of nearly 1.2 million, good enough for a 20th-place finish.
Podtrac says 13 of the top 20 podcast publishers had increases in global download numbers from June to July. And eight of the 20 saw an increase in their U.S. monthly audience.
Among the top ten publishers, the average U.S. unique monthly audience was flat month-over-month. But on a year-to-year basis Podtrac says there was an average 22% increase from July 2019. In terms of downloads, the top ten publishers had an average 4% growth between June and July. And a 72% increase in July versus a year earlier.