Sony Music is downsizing its podcast division in a move the company says will focus on its most profitable series. The company says a “significant percentage” of its podcast division has been laid-off. “Like many in the industry, we are further streamlining our structure as we continue to shift our creative strategy and focus on building big audiences across a select group of ongoing shows and our subscription business,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We are grateful for all of the contributions of the team members who are departing the company.” No count of those exiting was released.
As part of the changes, insiders say SME is reducing the number of new “always on” shows it produces in-house, as well as changing the process for how they are made. The changes mean some shows are leaving. Among the high-profile shows that have reportedly been cancelled is High Low with EmRata. Launched last November by model and author Emily Ratajkowski, Bloomberg reports the decision to end the podcast was based on where its listeners are. The show has reportedly drawn a lot of listeners outside the U.S., but because most podcast advertising targets American listeners, Sony has struggled to monetize the series.
During an Advertising Week presentation last year, UTA Head of Audio Oren Rosenbaum said High Low had been a passion project for him, having approached Ratajkowski for years to launch a podcast as he saw from her books that she had something to say. While High Low is leaving Sony, Bloomberg says Ratajkowski is seeking a new home for the podcast.
Even as it trims its portfolio SME is still launching new shows. It last week debuted You Had Me at Hello, a new show hosted by actor Taye Diggs who chats with ordinary people about how they found love.
The layoffs are the latest fine-tuning for Sony, which last year downsized its podcast payroll after it had rolled the Three Uncanny Four studio into the company’s larger podcast efforts, which include Neon Hum, Campside, and the U.K.-based Broccoli Content and Somethin’ Else.
The latest move by Sony comes in a year when there has been an industry-wide focus on profitability as the ad market has slowed and companies have looked to right-size their spending for the ad dollars podcasting is able to attract. In the past month, publishers including Barstool Sports and Futuro Media became the latest to join the list. Others have said they may cut more personnel. Spotify reduced its headcount by six percent in February, and during a conference call with investors in July CFO Paul Vogel said more could be coming as they focus on becoming “more efficient.”