November 18 2020, Dubai, UAE: The global podcast market is expanding at a rate of 30% a year as consumers try to filter through the growing excess of media content. Data demonstrating the increasing demand for portable audio entertainment was shared by Simon Sutton, former President and Chief Revenue Officer of media giant HBO and currently CEO of Luminary Media, at the Executive Session series hosted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication (MBRSC) at American University in Dubai (AUD).
During the exclusive online event, with an audience of around 100 media professionals and scholars from across the UAE, Simon charted the transition from music and talk radio to podcasting, which he described simply as ‘talk radio on-demand’. Speaking about the impact of the global pandemic upon the industry, he said that podcasting flourished during the lockdown as production and editing could quickly be delivered remotely. “Subscriptions platforms have seen a significant uptake, particularly in younger demographics, as people seek audio content while working from home. Invention and uptake of wearable audio devices has further boosted the podcasting business, with consumers able to access content anytime, anywhere.”
Questioned about his tips on how to develop a well-subscribed podcast, Simon said it was vital that the content is in the language of the listener and relevant to the local environment, and that discussing subjects people are passionate about drives higher engagement. Above all, he advised that a good podcast must have a distinctive point of view. Looking to the future of the business, he predicted that within two years, the entire space would be owned by the three big players, Apple, Spotify and Google.
Chaired by Charles Schreger, Formerly of HBO and Adjunct Assistant Professor at AUD and at NYU Stern School of Business, the virtual session concluded with a lively audience Q&A. Among the attendees was Ashraf Younis, Director of Channels for MBC Action and MBC3, who commented, “It was an engaging session, the content was an eye-opener into two unique and popular media platforms: podcast and music, their role and impact in light of the pandemic and beyond.”
The Executive Session was part of a series of events initiated by AUD’s MBRSC to bring globally renowned professionals to the UAE and to connect them with local media executives. Ali Jaber, Dean of MBRSC and Group TV Director of MBC, commented, “The AUD MBRSC is the only School of Communication in the region with a widespread reach inside the industry globally, that can bring influential players to share their knowledge with the media community in the Arab world.”
Simon Sutton is a renowned leader in the field. During his tenure, HBO witnessed the fastest domestic growth in 30 years and a quadrupling of international subscribers from 20 million to over 80 million.