Tyler Suiters                      

Hey everybody! I'm Tyler Suiters with the Consumer Technology Association. We are the owners and producers of CES, the largest, the most influential tech event on the planet. We are here to help you get CES ready. The big show is January 7th through the 10th, 2020, as always in Las Vegas. And today a focus on C Space at CES. Now, this is where we bring together the world's marketers, innovators, entertainment folk, the creative set, all in a single venue. If you haven't been there yet, please take my advice. Get over there just once, and I bet you'll be a repeat customer or visitor year after year after year. This is where you find the disruptive trends that are changing the future of brand marketing and of entertainment. And we are each and every one of us, I bet, consumers of both of those. Also, you'll find leaders in content creation, the top advertising firms, major studios, as well. And remember the definition of an entertainment studio is changing rapidly, right? So you'll find everyone there.

Tyler Suiters                      

So today we are talking about C Space with two giants in the entertainment and content sector. First of all, a conversation with a leader from iHeartMedia. Now if you're not quite sure how to define iHeart, first of all, I bet you listened to one of their affiliates or stations or iterations at some point every day or at least every week. It has the largest reach of any radio or TV outlet in America, and it is not limiting itself to just radio. A talk with its podcasting expert, yes, a podcast about podcasts. I know, start the meme right now. That's coming up with iHeartMedia.

Tyler Suiters                      

Also, we are connecting with Discovery Inc. This is a company with almost seven billion monthly video views, just full-stop there to let that sink in, seven billion monthly views. And on the other side of its platform, it's also Motor Trends’ number one digital media platform for auto. Who knew, right? So it gives you an idea of the breadth and diversity of content that Discovery offers, but also it's branching out in the ways to get that content to you. All of that is coming up in today's conversation about CES C Space today on CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Joining us now is the president of iHeartMedia's podcast division, Conal Byrne. Conal, it's great to have you with us, although with a little bit of trepidation because you will know far more about the podcasting process than I ever will.

Conal Byrne                       

Thank you guys so much for having me on today. I really appreciate any chance I get to talk about this medium, which these days is at yet another tipping point or milestone. I will take it. Thanks.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well, you know, not trying to fake humility here though. I'm serious. In terms of your area of expertise, I didn't realize this as we were researching our conversation, iHeart is consistently the number one publisher for podcasts. How'd you get yourselves into that position?

Conal Byrne                       

Yeah. There's a central ranker called Pod Track, which is sort of the central ranker for the entire podcast industry, and iHeartMedia is at the top of that ranker at about 23-24 million unique listeners a month, and a little over 150 million downloads a month. We drive about 250 shows. Many of those originals, many of those shows that originate as broadcast radio shows that we then distribute as podcasts. We keep quality extremely high. We are very selective of the shows that we bring onto our network and we have, I think the strongest marketing and promotion muscle in the entire industry. Thanks to the fact that there's a little bit of a snowball effect here.

Conal Byrne                       

Once you have 150 million downloads a month, you have a whole lot of promotional power to launch a new podcast off of. And that's to speak nothing of the fact that surrounding us at iHeartRadio that you have 850 plus broadcast radio stations in 150 markets across the country. So all of those for me are the fastest and newest audio distribution platforms that I have access to to tell people across the country in every market on broadcast radio about the awesome content we're making. So that kind of marketing muscle definitely helps keep you number one as you go.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well, let's talk about iHeart and and the strength and dominance that it has, and to your point, the easiest way to make $1 million is step one, start with $1 million and easiest way to get all these downloads and listeners is to start with that many. But give us a quick slice on where iHeart is right now in terms of size, scope, scale, and the depth and breadth of content that you're dealing with.

Conal Byrne                       

We have about 250 shows that we count publicly. That means we actually have several hundred additional shows that we produce across the United States because you can think about it. And one way iHeartMedia is just a collection of hundreds of different audio teams, broadcast radio and podcasts teams across the country, testing, trying, learning about audio storytelling all the time. We only pick the biggest account in our 250 publicly tracked shows. That drives about 150 plus million downloads a month at about 23-24 million unique listeners a month. Now that's just in the podcasting universe. Beyond that, iHeartMedia's reach through broadcast radio is really kind of incredible. They reach nine out of 10 Americans a month across 850 plus broadcast radio stations in every market in the country. And that's in multiple formats from urban to country to pop to talk radio.

Conal Byrne                       

And so when you think about launching and growing 250 podcasts of every genre, some of these are history, true crime, general reference, food, travel, having that broadcast radio platform to distribute it on in different formats and in different markets, it really does help you get the word out about a new show and every now and then a show will come along like the one we launched in February where we launched a podcast called the Ron Burgundy podcast with Will Ferrell hosting and we can bring to bear every single radio station in the United States to get the word out about that show. You know, you're literally reaching eight, nine out of 10 Americans about a podcast. It does a ton to raise the view of our network, but I think it actually does a ton to advance the whole industry further. So it's a pretty cool moment and it's a pretty cool company to be able to work at for this industry.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, I was going to throw in a state classy line, but really you can pick the Ron Burgundy classic, a scripting line of your choice. No kidding. Big fan, big fan. Well, so we do a biannual Sales and Forecasts reports here at CTA about the tech sector and who's buying what and the growth areas. Streaming video and audio is one of the success stories—significant success stories. Just in the recent reports about the growth there. How did iHeart really leverage that opportunity to not make a binary choice between terrestrial over the air versus streaming, but to work through and in some sense find the synergy of both mediums to drive business, drive audience?

Conal Byrne                       

I think the way that iHeart looks at it, it's just very unique. I think that iHeart is a truly distributed content model company and that means that when you have great audio storytelling, whether it starts out as a podcast like stuff you should know who has been publishing that show for over 11-12 years, it just passed 1 billion downloads to date and it has about 1,500 episodes in the archive. Well, we just view broadcast radio as one more distribution point. It's not that it's different or over there or an afterthought, it's the same two are the distributing that show across say the iHeartRadio app in the podcast section.

Conal Byrne                       

And I think thinking of that platform—broadcast radio—as just another audio distribution point is a pretty unique way to look at it. That flows the other way too, by the way. We have shows that originated as broadcast radio shows every morning like The Breakfast Club is broadcast out of Tribeca, New York City every single morning as one of the biggest and best morning shows in the country. It's also one of the best and biggest podcasts in my industry, and that's just because it's great conversation and storytelling. We capture that audio file, distribute it out across podcast platform where it just crushes it month in, month out. It's usually in the top 50 if not better.

Tyler Suiters                      

To put on your start up mantle so to speak, Conal, where do you guide folks, fans who say, "I have a passion, I have an idea, I want to get started?" I mean looking way upstream. Right? Way up the ladder. How do you advise someone to get started, to get underway, to get into this medium?

Conal Byrne                       

I come at it two different ways. One is pick a topic, the podcast, about that you won't stop talking about anyway. Pick a topic that whether the microphone was on or off, you would be yammering on and on about and then decide, ‘That's my passion.’”

Tyler Suiters                      

What would that be for you?

Conal Byrne                       

Well, for me that's probably history or music. We have, I think the best history slate of podcasts in the medium and music slight of podcasts. Like so many people in my industry, I started out in audio. I was in a rock band in my early twenties and really what I was falling in love with was audio in all its forms and I think if you stick with a passion like that, it'll get you through the first year or two of podcasting, which can be tough.

Conal Byrne                       

It's a medium where you have to work hard to tell a good story, but you take a creator like Jake Brennan. He launched a show called This Great Land. Did it on his own for a couple of years. It's about true crime meets music, so all the sort of darker parts of music like Kurt Cobain and Phil Spector and everything in between. This Great Land's gone on to be one of the biggest podcasts in the world. It's now in our network. But Jake really started it out with a passion point. He loves music and he likes the darker side of music. It might not be coincidental that Jake started out in a punk rock band.

Conal Byrne                       

So I would first start there and the second advice I'd give is start right now. Podcasting has passed a few key milestones in the last five or six years. Yet we've gone from one out of four Americans actively listening to one out of three. That's 90 million Americans listening to podcasts every month now, but we're also about the path of a few more milestones. Podcasts aren't readily distributed yet on social media. You think about it, your Facebook feed is not filled with audio content, mostly video and pictures. That will change. Audio content will start to fill your Facebook feed. Android listeners don't make up a ton of podcast listeners right now. That will change too because we'll have better, easier accessible apps for Android listeners. So all of that, not to over complicate it, it's just to say, even though we're much bigger than we ever thought we would be, it's about the [inaudible 00:12:16] again in the next three, four, five years and the time to get in for a new podcaster is right now.

Tyler Suiters                      

And then on the infrastructure side, Conal, I mean you have at a pretty high level everything you need to start a podcast on your phone in your hand right now. Correct?

Conal Byrne                       

You do. I mean we do not make podcasts that way. We have great studios built out here, one in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles where we record everybody from Will Ferrell to Chelsea Handler to Stephanie Rule but yes. Dear equipment, quality of sound. Those should not be barriers to entry for a new podcast. There is rule in this medium at least to start with.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah and true to your earlier point, your distribution network is on your phone as well through the social app of your choice or maybe all of those platforms. Looking ahead a few months, Conal, you are a CES veteran. I'd assume C Space is where you beeline when you get on the ground in Las Vegas every year. The gathering of the content, entertainment, the advertising and embarking, the media sectors all in one place. But what is your usual approach at CES?

Conal Byrne                       

I usually use CES to try and get a sense of new audio distribution tech that's coming. Obviously that's kind of two big buckets. How are people going to make and distribute content faster, easier, wider and then on the ad tech side—how are advertisers going to be helped, supported with better ad tech? You know a few years ago dynamic ad insertion wasn't even a thing in my industry. Now it is prevalent. So stuff like that is going to be important at CES, and I'll look at that.

Conal Byrne                       

On the other side, I've spent a lot of time with clients. It means the world to me to have a 100-150 clients that we've been able to build an industry on the backs of, and anytime I could spend with them to walk them through what we're making content wise, I do and CES is a great gathering ground. It's become really great for that. I think what you'll see in the next two or three years is the rise of more and more and higher and higher quality branded content in podcasting., so we'll have a few good conversations about that next year.

Tyler Suiters                      

What is your typical workday at CES? How many meetings? What kind of hours? I'd assume you're nonstop from before sunrise to well after sunset.

Conal Byrne                       

It's long. It's long. Especially when iHeart posts the party of the festival and usually has a musical act like none other and that party usually starts after hours but you gear up and you make the most of it. I find CES as huge but also really effective if used right. You can get done like any really effective large conference like this, you can get done weeks' worth of work in just a couple of days. If you plan it out well. It's usually a third, a third, a third. I will try to spend a third of my time with content creators. A third of my time on tech, be it content tech or ad serving tech and then a third of my time with sales.

Tyler Suiters                      

I hope in 2020 we can find like 3 to 5% to devote to discovery. Right? Wander around being serendipitous?

Conal Byrne                       

Those days may be gone, but I hope to.

Tyler Suiters                      

Hey Conal, before you roll, since you brought it up, tell us about your old rock band. What'd you play?

Conal Byrne                       

I was a singer and a keyboardist and like many musicians in my early twenties floated between several bands. I think back in those days, like most of us, I just wanted to be U2, and when I realized there already was a U2, I started to think about other kinds of media and other ways to tell audio stories and ended up in podcasting a few years later and I never looked back. I really sort of fit like a glove and I loved it. I feel like there's something about this medium that it is the oldest medium in the world is humans sitting around and telling each other good stories. It will never get old and I'm very glad it's back again in a big way.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, it's clearly worked out very well for you. Conal Byrne is president of iHeartMedia's podcast division and try to avoid talking about podcasts on our podcast and make it all about podcasting, but he is an expert and it's great to have his insight here. Conal, great to talk to you my friend and we'll see you in Las Vegas pretty soon.

Conal Byrne                       

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Have a good one.

Tyler Suiters                      

Joining us now from the media giant Discovery Inc. Is Michael Bishara. He is Group Senior Vice President and General Manager of Direct to Consumer. Michael, I'm going to catch my breath after your title, but hey, thanks for joining us today. Appreciate it.

Michael Bishara               

Thank you, happy to be here.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well look, Discovery is going gang busters right now. Third largest media company here in the US, and I'd imagine from your perspective, a key driver of that growth has to be finding consumers wherever they want to watch video.

Michael Bishara               

That's right. That's right, and really we look at, sort of our core focus is really about delivering consumer experiences that are sort of feeding the passion of these super fans. It's super important, and we do this on a sort of a global basis, and I think domestically we've been to that space. I'm focused on or authenticated to the E-apps where we're sort of moving forward with those same principles and tenets with the consumer at the center point of the overall experience.

Tyler Suiters                      

So where do you see the consumer experience going? And I'll ask it from our end on those of us who are watching and listening, where's the trend? Is it as simple to sum up as we are watching more content than ever and we're doing it in more places than ever?

Michael Bishara               

First of all, we own all of our content and when we look at expressing that on a global basis, and really super serving these verticals, these deep verticals from automotive to golf to cycling to sports in general. It got in the consumers at the center of that conversation. It's not just simply taking that same content and making it available on multiple platforms. It's trying to determine what that truly unique consumer proposition that will really elevate the conversation with the consumer, elevate the engagement with them and really create a unique compelling offering that's highly differentiated.

Tyler Suiters                      

Unique and compelling are certainly adjectives that apply to Discovery and not just your content, but your approach as well. Michael, how has Discovery evolved during your time there and where do you see that path heading as far as both the content you're putting together and also how you're sharing that, how you're leveraging technology to get it out?

Michael Bishara               

Yeah. Well first I would say it's an incredibly exciting time to be there. And then of course one could probably say that if you're in the industry in general, but when you bring together sort of best in class talent and best of breed brand along with the energy and focus on the consumer and that passion to drive and grow. And when we create some of this, you got a perfect storm. And as we look at that from a digital standpoint, if I just look at domestically within the United States, our TV, everywhere I go are authenticated apps and how we have really strived to differentiate and create unique propositions. So multiple others, from the go proposition, our TV everywhere authenticated apps across multiple dimensions. So we're not just putting content out for the sake of doing that, right? We're in essence offering 18 different apps that are authenticated with over 60,000 titles available at any given time to the consumer.

Michael Bishara               

It's the largest offering in the industry and really super important to not only be able to sort of catch up on the latest episodes that you missed or maybe you want to watch it live, but maybe I want to get deeper into the back catalog and maybe start the starting series from the beginning. So really fulfilling and sort of what that promise to the overall user, make everything available to them. Second thing is really around the user experience, and I use that term broadly, but the user experience entails not only the app or the software if you will that the consumers engaging in, but it’s also the advertising experience and also how are we authenticating and getting them to the door? So a couple of things that we've done is really, you know, within a company into a single type of staffing platform globally, which is super important for many reasons from quality, efficiency and scale. That allows us to create what I would say best in class user experiences that are relevant, personalized that when the user wants to access them.

Michael Bishara               

And we know TV everywhere has evolved over the last decade to a relatively cumbersome experience to much more frictionless with new technologies such as HBA, home base authentication and [inaudible 00:00:22:14]. We're employing all of these tech technologies and partnerships with our affiliates, our distributors to ensure that the consumer has a frictionless experience getting through the front door. But then also of course we monetize through advertising and we need to sort of balance if you will, the ad and the ad experience relative to the consumer expectation. So we have a team that's dedicated to these elements that are continually looking to fine tune and tweak the experience, balance the experience with monetization and we certainly hear directly from the consumers. We also have a dedicated team around customer care and that's all that they do. They're listening to the consumer, either in the app stores through email, some will pick up the phone and even call and we are absolutely very eager to hear from them. In fact, it's a tremendous opportunity to learn how we can improve and really exceed their expectations.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, analog communications. What a novel way to engage with the audience, right? [crosstalk 00:23:22]. Yeah, you bring up the issue of advertising, and this may be a wildly overly simplified summary, but the role of technology there, is it simply easier than ever to get to the audience that you want to reach or advertisers want to reach? Is that a fair way just to give a thumbnail of it or is it just far too complex to leave it at that high level?

Michael Bishara               

You know, when I looked at, you know, if you ask where are we moving towards and we've taken strides towards this in general, it would be one of sort of relevance really across the board of relevant consumer experience and relevance as far as the advertising experience as well. So that's where we're driving towards. So in essence, if I'm on a connected television platform and I'm a demographic of, you know, the opportunity to be able to serve up a relevant ad based on the psychographics and demographics that that user is really where we're driving towards. And we do send it back to them, obviously. Also the ability to be able to track for the advertiser, to understand levels of engagement are super critical. So we work very closely with our ad sales partners and ad tech teams to ensure that we're fulfilling on the overall requirements of the stakeholder community, which is not just, of course we're very focused on the consumer, but the advertisers as well.

Tyler Suiters                      

Michael Bishara is Group Senior Vice President and General Manager of Direct to Consumer with Discovery Inc., one of the largest media companies in the entire US and obviously growing rapidly. Michael, pleasure to have you with us today and yeah, we'll see you pretty soon out in Las Vegas. Thanks so much.

Michael Bishara               

Looking forward to it. Thank you very much.

Tyler Suiters                      

Awesome conversations today, but okay, coming up next time you're going to want to stick around. We're talking sports tech and we're talking to a leader of one of the true global sports out there right now with an immense audience. F1 racing, auto racing at some of the most glamorous cities around the world. But the focus here is both on the fans that are fortunate enough to be able to attend these road race events, but also, and maybe, perhaps more so on all of us who don't go but still want to be engaged.

Speaker 2                           

E-sports is such a huge part of what we do as well because they give you that sort of first-person opportunity to experience roughly what it's like to be in a Formula 1 car.

Tyler Suiters                      

All right, that is coming up next time on CES Tech Talk and as always, we want you to be CES ready. You can subscribe to this podcast, and so you won't miss a single episode as we're gearing up for the big show. Speaking of CES 2020, it's January 7th through the 10th in Las Vegas. The information you need is available at CES.tech. As always, none of this is possible without our true podcasting superstars, our executive producer, Tina Anthony, and our senior studio engineer, John Lindsey, you all are the best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk tech again soon.

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