This American Life Gets New Distribution

This American Life LogoLong-running NPR favorite This American Life has switched its primary distribution point from Public Radio International (PRI) to Public Radio Exchange (PRX). This is relevant to podcasting for a couple reasons. First, the show will now be distributed primarily via the Internet instead of NPR’s satellite system. Second, This American Life will now be able to seek out its own podcast sponsors and potentially make more money.

Under PRI, This American Life was paid by NPR stations that chose to carry the show. And overall, NPR had more involvement in the business side of the show. Thru this new deal with PRX, the show is essentially going independent. It’ll still be heard in all of the same places, and the changeover should be seamless to most listeners. And while This American Life has a huge audience to build from, the change doesn’t come without risks. According to the CNBC article linked above, the show is foregoing a guaranteed seven-figure income with its old PRI deal. Under the new system, This American Life host Ira Glass and the show’s producers will be directly responsible for managing the show’s marketing and monetization efforts. From that CNBC article:

“Mr. Glass wanted to keep that digital independence, waving off PRI’s hunger for involvement. And he began to think that ‘This American Life’ could do better than with PRI as a distributor. While Mr. Glass and Julia Yager, PRI’s spokeswoman, said the prospect of sharing podcast revenues was never broached in the negotiations, the talks ended in deadlock. Both PRI and Mr. Glass describe the split as mutual and amicably reached.

‘We believe we can do more in our underwriting, and we think it was maybe costing us with staying with them,’ said Mr. Glass in an interview in his Chelsea office.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this move plays out for This American Life, and whether or not it causes other big NPR shows to follow suit.

Posted by Shawn Thorpe