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NPR, This American Life, WBEZ and WNYC Buy Podcasting App Pocket Casts

Public radio giants NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life have come together to buy the popular podcasting app Pocket Casts. The startup will continue to work on the app, as well as additional tools for listeners and creators.

With the acquisition, Pocket Casts is also getting a new CEO: The company will now be led by Owen Grover, who previously served as executive vice president and general manager of iHeartRadio. Company founders Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic will stay with the company, and the startup’s entire staff is staying on as well.

“For months now, I’ve been using Pocket Casts and recommending it to friends,” said “This American Life” host Ira Glass in a statement. “It’s a great app – with a super-intuitive interface – and I’m excited for the things we’re hoping to add to it.”

Pocket Casts has been available on iOS, Android and the web as a paid app. It is currently the #1 news app on iOS, and has been downloaded more than 500,000 times from Google’s Play Store.

There is no word yet on whether Pocket Casts will keep its current premium pricing model. “The leadership team at Pocket Casts will assess the business and revenue model for Pocket Casts in the future, with the goal of ensuring the platform remain financially sustainable,” a spokesperson told Variety. “Decisions about the fee model will be made as part of that process.”

It’s worth noting that Pocket Casts hasn’t been the first foray of public radio producers into the world of podcasting apps. NPR maintains its own NPR One app across a variety of platforms to serve up live and on-demand content, and “This American Life” has long had its own app for access to its podcasts.

PRX, the company distributing “This American Life,” also branched out into podcast distribution with its own podcasting app called RadioPublic in 2016.

However, with Pocket Casts, public radio may have found some common ground — its Hulu, if you will — to distribute podcasts from a number of publishers through an already popular app.

NPR president and CEO Jarl Mohn acknowledged as much in a statement Thursday, saying: “Pocket Casts is a terrific app and will be a great complement to NPR One, the NPR app and the other outstanding products in public radio’s portfolio of innovation. We want to continue serving and delighting its large and passionate audience through wide access to the world of powerful podcasts, from public radio and beyond.”

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