In comparison, globally, star hosts make good money. Joe Rogan, a popular podcaster, reportedly makes north of $75,000 per episode—Rogan has upwards of 1400 episodes.
While podcasting is a tough business to crack anyway, IVM has also lost out on catching the bigger fish for partnerships. Amazon and Spotify.
When Audible Suno and Spotify were to launch in India, they didn’t pick IVM as their production partner. Despite its experience, bandwidth and access.
“As a company, last year, we decided that our priority was creating IPs and offering brand solutions. We stopped chasing audio production gigs aggressively. Why would we not try and stand on the long-legs of being an IP house [making original shows] versus the relatively slippery slope that a production house rests on?” Doshi said.
Perhaps, but the pressure is mounting on IVM, with global players taking over its playground. As per Ovum’s Global Podcast Market Forecast 2017-22, podcasts will be a $1 billion market by 2020 and will almost double by 2022.
IVM needs a solution.
IVM’s four-sided dice
According to industry experts, IVM has four options.
But by whom?
Globally, Spotify is known to acquire podcast publishers. And with large sums at that. It acquired the publisher Gimlet Media for north of $200 million in February 2019, Parcast for $56 million in March 2019 and The Ringer for another $200 million earlier this month. But, then, globally, numbers are in a different orbit.
For Amazon, if insiders are to believed, Audible Suno is a mere play to get users hooked onto audio stories. A leading podcaster said, “Once they have a dedicated user base that is engaged with the app and is hooked onto audio content, Amazon will eventually merge the Suno Android App into the Audible app. Anyway, there is no iPhone app for Suno.” But the Audible iPhone app has Suno as a “feature” in it.
The Ken reached out to Spotify and Amazon for their comment but did not get any response.
“Instead of spending money on marketing your audiobooks and music streaming app, these players with bottomless pockets can now invest a fraction of that in creating a slate of originals that can get you a similar number of additional downloads. You know, app marketing vs content marketing?” said Doshi.
An executive with a streaming company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that IVM could be an acquisition target for its “big library of 100+ original shows on a wide range of topics and understanding of the market”. Potential interested parties, beyond Amazon, Spotify, Gaana and JioSaavn? Perhaps even, Storytel, he said, for it has started investing in celebrity-led podcasts. “[Airtel’s] Wynk Music could be the dark horse in the race. However, so far they have not shown any interest in podcasting.”
Both Doshi and Rajwade refused to comment on this.
2. Raise capital
The other option for IVM is to raise capital—the Series A would help—and invest in a team that can help it identify newer routes of monetisation. However, an analyst at a venture capital fund we spoke to said IVM’s revenue model is still too “flaky” for her comfort. “With the existing business model where they produce audio content for themselves and for others, it’s a no-go. They are a mere audio production studio,” she said.
Another angel investor noted that IVM isn’t robust in vernacular podcasting either. “With Kuku FM raising a relatively large round for an audio-only content business, IVM needs to ramp up its offering in the vernacular space. That’s where all the action is for all content businesses on all mediums. I mean look at companies like Headfone (backed by Fosun RZ), Pocket FM and others—each may be small in terms of original content but the clear focus is on vernacular content for Bharat, not India ”.
Right now, IVM does have some content in non-English, non-Hindi categories, but these are just a fraction of the catalog. Competitors like Ep.Log are catching up fast with a slate of 20-odd shows, most targeted at tier-II and tier-III cities. Plus, IVM is more of a publisher than an aggregator.
3. Look west
Kartik Parija, founder of Adori Labs that offers a suite of tools for audio publishers—Adori Labs and IVM work together on various projects—said, “The founders of IVM are the among the few in India that ‘get’ the podcasting ecosystem in its true essence. They are on par with producers and publishers in more mature markets like the US.”