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Podtrac: NPR And iHeart In Tight Race For No. 1.

The iHeartPodcast Network remains the biggest commercial podcaster, but after two months of sitting in second place, Podtrac says NPR retook the top spot on its monthly ranker of publishers during June. NPR’s unique U.S. audience increased 1% month-to-month and its global downloads grew 5%. In the neck-and-neck race, Podtrac says iHeart’s downloads were also up to more than 24 million last month.

The New York Times remains some distance behind both NPR and iHeart, but the publisher of the top-ranked The Daily podcast continued to see growth as it remained in third place. Podtrac says the New York Times had a 19% jump in total downloads during June compared to May, while its overall monthly unique U.S. audience increased 17% as a month filled with news of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests around the country helped keep interest in news content strong.

Barstool Sports also continued its expansion, thanks to a combination of controversies and a ramp-up for many sports leagues that had been sidelined by the coronavirus. Barstool Sports moved up to fourth place, trading spots with PRX, which fell to fifth place. Podtrac says Barstool Sports had a 6% increase in its unique monthly U.S. audience in June compared to May, while its downloads were up 5%.

The rest of the top ten in June was mostly the same as in May, with Wondery, NBC News, Westwood One, Kast Media and ESPN filling out the ranker. It was a return to the top ten for ESPN, which like Barstool Sports, benefited from a renewed interest in sports. Podtrac says ESPN’s unique U.S. audience rose 6% month-to-month. Its total number of global downloads and streams grew by a similar rate.

Podtrac says the average unique monthly U.S. audience for the top ten publishers increased 4% from May to June. The increase was considerably bigger – 21% – when compared to June 2019. It’s a similar story among the number of streams and downloads. For the top ten publishers, that number increased by 5% month-to-month but showed a 64% year-to-year gain.

Beyond the top ten, Podtrac notes that 15 of the top 20 publishers had an increase in their unique audience in June when compared to May. And all but three of the top 20 publishers grew their global download numbers.

The monthly update also showed not only how much interest in history podcasts has grown, but the continued ability of a self-published show to cut through. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History put the podcast on Podtrac’s ranker for the first time in June. The show had more than 1.6 million unique U.S. listeners with global downloads of more than four million.

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