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                SiriusXM is closing in on a deal to acquire E.W. Scripps Co.’s Stitcher podcast production, distribution and advertising unit, Variety has confirmed.

                SiriusXM’s deal for Stitcher would be worth about $300 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. Scripps bought Stitcher for $4.5 million in 2016 and combined it with Midroll Media (which it bought for $50 million the year prior).

                The deal is not finalized at this point, according to a person familiar with the talks. The pact is intended to vault SiriusXM into a premier position in the U.S. podcasting business, expanding the satellite radio company’s footprint across all audio-entertainment formats. By buying Stitcher, SiriusXM would become a major podcast player — and it would continue the M&A trend in the still-hot sector, following Spotify’s buying spree over the past year (which has included acquisitions of Gimlet Media and The Ringer).

                Reps for SiriusXM and E.W. Scripps did not respond to requests for comment.

                The $300 million reported price tag would represent 4.1 times Stitcher’s 2019 revenue of $73 million (up 42% year over year), B. Riley FBR analyst Zack Silver wrote in a research note. “The big question, in our view, is what a potential acquirer like [SiriusXM] would do with the Stitcher app, which has idled under [E.W. Scripps] ownership,” Silver wrote. He suggested that SiriusXM could distribute existing exclusive programming on Stitcher, driving user growth “much like Spotify’s strategy with its recent exclusive deals.” SiriusXM also could potentially bundle Stitcher’s free and/or premium services with the SiriusXM-branded satellite and streaming products, Pandora, and possibly even SoundCloud, Silver added.

                SiriusXM last year completed its $3 billion deal for Pandora, a streaming music and podcast company. According to the source familiar with the talks, the SiriusXM and Pandora owned-and-operated digital platforms, together with Stitcher and Midroll and SiriusXM’s exclusive ad-sales partnership with SoundCloud for the U.S. (under its $75 million investment giving it a minority stake in SoundCloud), would let it reach more than 150 million monthly listeners.

                Stitcher’s podcasts include “Freakonomics Radio,” “How Did This Get Made?”, “SuperSoul Sunday” from the Oprah Winfrey Network, “Office Ladies,” “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” “Literally! with Rob Lowe,” “LeVar Burton Reads,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, and “WTF with Marc Maron.”

                Stitcher also operates a popular mobile app platform that lets users stream podcasts across a range of categories for free, with ads. Alternatively, users can pay for Stitcher’s $5 monthly Premium subscription tier without ads as well as access to exclusive bonus podcast episodes and over 300 comedy albums. Through Midroll Media, Stitcher acts as a sales and marketing rep to connect advertisers and podcasts.

                Last month, SiriusXM announced the acquisition of Simplecast, a podcast management and analytics platform. Pandora had previously bought AdsWizz, an audio ad tech and monetization platform.

                Stitcher is led by CEO Erik Diehn, who joined E.W. Scripps through its acquisition of Midroll.

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