US podcast services Stitcher and Wondery have joined forces to expand into the UK in a move aimed at disrupting the growing digital audio market.
Advertisers in the UK will be able to buy premium ad inventory locally and globally from the joint venture, Podfront UK.
The move will add a fourth major player to the UK podcast market, alongside Dax (Global’s digital audio exchange), Acast and Audioboom.
Podfront will be led by Ruth Fitzsimons. She joined from Audioboom, where she was senior vice-president of international operations and content partnerships.
As managing director of Podfront, Fitzsimons is tasked with building a sales, content and marketing team that will grow the Stitcher and Wondery networks.
As well as monetising existing podcasts in the UK, Podfront plans to bring UK-based brands into the US market and expand to more European countries.
While the podcast market is still small in the UK compared with other digital audio, it is growing rapidly. The number of weekly podcast listeners has almost doubled in five years to 5.9 million in 2018 (according to Ofcom) and last week Global reported that three-quarters of advertisers are planning to spend more on podcasts specifically.
The UK ranks third in listening across Stitcher’s network of of 250 podcasts, according to its sales arm, Midroll. Shows on Stitcher include Freakonomics, WTF with Marc Maron and Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, while Wondery produces Dirty John and Dr Death.
Erik Diehn, chief executive of Stitcher, said: "Stitcher has been at the forefront of podcast creation and monetisation for over a decade in the US, and we have the breadth and depth of listener-provided data and resources to help brands and advertisers in the UK tap into this growing audience.
"By partnering with Wondery in this endeavour, we bring together our networks and combined expertise to continue this momentum within the European market."