HiStudios, a new podcasting content company spun off from China-backed podcast platform Himalaya, is set to open a physical production studio in Los Angeles next month. The company seeks to stand out with sports and influencer podcasts, and favors an open distribution strategy over paid exclusives.
HiStudios started as the content division of Himalaya, a new podcast app that was sneaked out with $100 million in funding in February. HiStudios CEO Peter Vincer, who until recently served as VP of Partnerships at Himalaya, said Variety this week that the company continued to receive requests not only to distribute podcasts, but also to help produce them.
That’s why it decided to consolidate all of its content production, marketing, distribution and monetization efforts under a separate banner. HiStudios, which started in earnest in March, has since hired a dozen employees, including former Rooster Teeth senior sales manager Nathan Jordan as chief revenue officer and former Veritone One media buyer. , Lexy Passer, as Vice President of Marketing.
HiStudios has also been busy securing content deals, with sports being a key area. Sports podcasts have been overlooked by some of the other big platforms, says HiStudios content manager and former Variety contributor Mike Botticello. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.” Some of the basketball players HiStudios works with include Gilbert Arenas, Penny Hardaway and Caron Butler. Other talents include Mike Tyson and Warren Sapp.
The company is also working with select influencers, including Zane and Heath, and the Corey and Aaron show, and will soon distribute “Ellie and the Wave,” a new podcast featuring Natalie Morales, Paul Scheer and others.
All of these shows will be available on the Himalaya app, but listeners will also find them on iTunes, Spotify and elsewhere. “All of our shows will be distributed openly,” Vincer said. This decision was partly based on a realistic view of the market. “Himalaya is a rapidly growing platform,” Vincer said, while admitting it’s not as big as Spotify and some of the other competitors.
But Vincer also argued that it’s a bad idea for podcasters to exclusively tie themselves to any platform, even in the face of lucrative initial deals. “On the backend, they limit their viewership,” he said. The amount of free content available to the public worked against companies trying to put podcasts behind paywalls, Vincer said. “I think they’re going to lose. I think it’s going to flop.
HiStudios and Himalaya instead work on a freemium model, where shows are freely distributed, and paid subscribers receive bonus content or ad-free versions.
Vincer compared this model to Patreon, but said the membership platform was not well equipped to serve podcasters, who had to give their paying members private RSS feeds. “It’s awkward.” Himalaya instead integrates paid subscriptions directly into its apps, Vincer said. “The process has very little friction.”