A recurring thread in podcasting news as of late is NPR and its ever-changing relationship to the medium. This trend continues as it was announced this week that This American Life founder Ira Glass has taken complete ownership of the show. Previously, This American Life was co-owned by Glass and Chicago Public Media. But the new arrangement gives complete ownership over to the show’s creator.
Chicago Public Media will still receive a percentage of revenues generated by This American Life (underwriting, station carriage fees and listener donations). All of the show’s staffers will have their employment transferred from Chicago Public Media to the production company owned by Glass.
Glass explained that the main reason for this change is it’ll allow his company to freely explore new creative opportunities. Under the previous arrangement, everything had to be go thru a committee at Chicago Public Media. This caused a lot of friction anytime This American Life producers wanted to get a new project off the ground. And after the breakout success of Serial (a show that was spun off of This American Life), Glass and his staffers are likely eager to launch new and potentially ambitious projects without having to gain permission from public media’s overlords.
Given the success of outlets like Gimlet Media, a company that was founded by a former NPR producer, it’s likely that we’ll see more of these types of transitions in the public media landscape. More and more, these producers are stepping outside of the confines of public media and terrestrial radio and realizing the benefits of going independent.