Why Launching A Podcast Network Was A No-Brainer For Turner

While Turner divisions like CNN and Bleacher Report have been producing podcasts for years, the broadcast giant never formalized a podcast sales strategy across its network.

But with podcast advertising poised to double to $659 million by 2020, according to the IAB and PwC, it made sense for Turner to extend the reach from its entertainment brands into podcasts, said Tyler Moody, VP and general manager of Turner Podcast Network.

“Over the years, attention to podcasting ebbed and flowed,” he said. “No division at Turner was ready to have a slate of podcasts, but if we did it all together, we’d have scale and an opportunity to be part of the space.”

Turner Podcast Network offers 60 shows that skew toward news and sports and plans to launch more genres as it scales. For now, the network is extending its talent and brands into the podcasting world but will look into bringing on independent producers. The network will also create companion podcasts for hit shows, like it did for CNN’s documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Turner doesn’t have an official sales team for its podcast network yet, but buyers included direct-to-consumer brands such as Quip and ZipRecruiter, as well as big brand advertisers like Seat Geek. Bass Pro Shops and Ford include podcast inventory as part of larger buys across the network. (Turner declined to break out the amount of revenue flowing through its podcast network.)

Turner envisions centralizing podcast sales, like it has for programmatic, said Jason Baron, SVP of direct marketing and programmatic for Turner Ad Sales. For now, sponsorships are sold by account execs doing double duty across its networks.

“A lot of my big spenders on linear and digital are spending in the podcast space,” Baron said. “As we do these omnichannel deals across digital and linear, we envision podcasting as just another ad extension as part of our portfolio.”

But it’s not just content and scale that makes Turner Podcast Network attractive to buyers. The network will use Turner Data Cloud, its proprietary data management platform, to target known podcast listeners across its network and work with podcast hosting and ad platform Knit to enable dynamic ad insertion.

“We’re collecting data on downloads and then matching it across other ecosystems,” Moody said. “That’s information we can arm our sales teams with so advertisers know who they’re targeting.”

While Turner has seen bigger brands and agencies buying more podcast sponsorships over the past year and become more comfortable doing so programmatically, it’s still early days. For advertisers less familiar with podcasting, Turner can package podcast inventory as part of a larger buy.

“There’s still a lot of education on the branding side of the business, from [the] client and agency side,” Baron said. “We envision going to market as educating the marketplace.”

For a network as big as Turner, podcasting revenue is small. But it offers big opportunities by creating a new marketing channel, as well as in talent acquisition and IP development. For example, Turner can turn a hit podcast into a TV show on one of its networks, Moody said.

And incorporating podcast listener data into the Turner Data Cloud will help the network learn more about its audience. If Turner knows, for example, that only 20% of people listening to NBA podcasts have downloaded its NBA League Pass app, it can run ads within those podcasts to get people to download.

“We’re not only in this for the money,” Moody said. “There’s the fan engagement and marketing channel, the audience insights and IP acquisition and talent development. If you roll that up together, it’s meaningful for a large company like ours.”

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