Dropped By Mpls Co., This American Life To Self-Distribute

Host Ira Glass said This American Life split with Minneapolis-based Public Radio International in part to maintain control of its digital distribution.

This American Life, a popular public radio show hosted by Ira Glass, announced Wednesday that it will shift many of its distribution operations—which are currently handled by Minneapolis-based Public Radio International (PRI)—in house starting this summer.
After 17 years of distributing the program, PRI announced in March that it would drop This American Life on July 1. At the time, PRI said that it “became clear that our organizations’ expectations regarding our futures were different, and therefore, we mutually agreed that . . . PRI will no longer distribute the program.”
Since PRI partnered with This American Life in 1997, the program has grown its distribution from 110 radio stations to 587 stations and is currently heard by 2.2 million listeners every week.
This American Life said starting this summer it will partner with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based The Public Radio Exchange (PRX) to deliver the episodes to radio stations. The radio program itself, along with its producer Chicago Public Media, will take over other operations that were previously handled by PRI, such as selling underwriting and marketing the show to stations.
While terms of the deal were not disclosed, the Chicago Tribune reports that PRX will take a percentage of the fees paid by stations to carry the show, and the fees will remain the same as they were with PRI.

This American Life generates over 1 million downloads per episode and many weeks is the number one podcast on iTunes. Ira Glass told the Chicago Tribune that keeping control of the digital distribution of the show was a major factor in the break with PRI.

“PRI has never been involved in any of the digital side of it for us,” Glass told the newspaper. “We didn’t see a reason to have them help with that; it seemed like we could manage it on our own.”

Although Glass told the Chicago Tribune that PRX will be able to handle many of its services, such as station relations, sponsorship development, and delivering digital audio files of the show, he wasn’t certain that moving away from PRI will improve everything.

“There’s a possibility that we won’t do as good of a job as PRI did in selling underwriting for the show, so it could go worse,” Glass told the newspaper. “If everything goes great, then we’ll have an easier time making our budget each year.”

PRI produces nearly 30 other radio programs, including The Takeaway and PRI’s The World.