Podcasts are the new battleground in Music streaming

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on July 08, 2019 Published on July 08, 2019

The monthly podcast listeners in India, who've listened to at least one podcast in a month, grew to 40 million at the end of 2018 ( karandaev)

India is now the third largest podcast-listening market

As the music industry becomes more competitive, non-audio content or podcasts seem to have become the new battlegrounds.

Recorded audio shows or podcasts have seen a massive surge in the past couple of years, thanks to the long commuting hours in the country.

The monthly podcast listeners in India, who've listened to at least one podcast in a month, grew to 40 million at the end of 2018 from 25.8 million a year ago. This implies an annual growth of 57 per cent, according to a research by PwC.

India ranked third, after the United States (US) and China, in terms of podcast consumption. Currently, only 150 million Indians are estimated to be using audio-streaming services, which itself presents a massive opportunity of growth for podcasts.

If you're wonderingwhy podcasts became so popular, it's because most players in India call them either radio shows or audio shows instead of podcasts.

"Podcast is still an urban term and not many people in India understand it," Sreeraman Thiagarajan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agrahyah Technologies that owns and operates, India's largest Hindi podcast platform.

The company also licenses its content to players like Ola Play, and Airtel and is now signing up deals with music streaming companies as well.

Launched in January this year, aawaaz already has 54 audio shows with over 1,000 episodes in total. The company has over two lakh subscribers.

Music streaming companies like Hungama, Spotify and Gaana are trying to leverage this increased demand for audio content in India. They are also trying to build their own podcast platforms.

Gaana, for example, is using its Radio tab on the app to turn it into a destination for podcasts. Launched this week, its audio original shows have a mix of storytelling shows from Radio Mirchi to original comedy and devotional content.

Hungama, on the other hand, has been focusing on creating podcasts only around films and entertainment, which so far has only been in Hindi and Tamil. But seeing the growth in the number of listeners, Hungama is expanding its original podcasts to Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

"We started our podcast journey in 2017 and started packaging and getting content created for audio. Some of our podcasts have already seen a couple of million streams each," Siddhartha Roy, Chief Operations Officer (COO), Hungama Digital Media, said.

Roy acknowledged that many large music streaming players including Hungama had, for long, been sitting on the fence when it comes to podcasts. But that's changed completely in the last two years.

"Over the last 12-18 months, the music streaming industry has started focusing a lot on regional content and as more and more people are using streaming services, it is creating communities deeper. Earlier we didn't have large structured communities to go after," Roy said.

By communities he meant targeting a group of listeners who for example hail from Punjab and prefer to listen to only 60s Bollywood music. With such segmentation in place, streaming companies are creating podcasts that are catered to such niche micro communities.

The world's largest music streaming company Spotify, which only launched in India this year, has already started engaging with podcast creators in the country to build its podcast library targeted at Indian consumers.

"Since our launch in India earlier this year, we have observed interest in non music audio content that is based on self-motivation, music, true crime, mythology, and topical content such as Chernobyl. In just under two years, Spotify has already become the second largest platform for podcasts worldwide, and there is no reason why in the coming years, India won't be a part of this global opportunity. In fact, the engagement level on the Spotify app in India, for podcasts, is not very different from what average global engagement on the platform," Amarjit Batra, MD, Spotify India, said.

Despite the growth, advertisers have so far not shown much enthusiasm to support podcasts, but industry players feel it is still early days and podcasts present a huge untapped advertising potential. This is due to the time spent on the app.

Unlike songs that last anywhere between three to five minutes, on an average, podcasts are typically at least 20 minutes long. It forces listeners to stick around for a lot longer. Since each podcast is available only on a single streaming platform, this also gives stickiness to the platform, making listeners come back to listen to more episodes.

"We know that our users love having podcasts as a part of their Spotify experience. Our podcast users spend almost twice the time on the platform, and also spend even more time listening to music than music-only users. Going forward we believe that over time more than 20 per cent of all Spotify listening will be non-music content," Batra said.

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Published on July 08, 2019
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