San Francisco-based podcasting startup Himalaya Media has raised $100 million in funding to establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space. The company has launched apps for Android and iOS, and is getting ready to roll out a series of exclusive shows.
Himalaya’s main investor is Ximalaya, China’s biggest spoken word audio platform. Other investors include General Atlantic and SIG. Himalaya has also struck content partnerships with the Dallas Mavericks, Starburns Industries and Studio71.
Some of the original shows scheduled to debut on the platform include a podcast by “Vanderpump Rules” star James Kennedy, a weekly food podcast hosted by Atlanta-based celebrity chef Hugh Acheson and a show starring OZY’s editor-at-large Eugene S. Robinson. Himalaya is also working on a podcast from Mavericks player Luka Doncic.
Himalaya is distributing these shows via its website as well as Android and iOS apps, which also offer access to a catalog of some 20 million syndicated podcast episodes. “Himalaya seeks to be the cleanest, most intuitive app that also does the most for its partners and the community, said the company’s vice president of global partnerships and marketing Peter Vincer.
News of Himalaya’s launch comes just as Spotify is doubling down on podcasts: Earlier on Wednesday, the streaming music service announced that it has acquired podcast studio Gimlet Media and podcast monetization startup Anchor.
One of the differentiators that Himalaya wants to use to attract podcasters to its platform is a tipping feature that allows fans to support their favorite shows with micro-payments.
Over time, Himalaya is also looking to add paid content to its app. “The U.S. market has shown that it can support paid content and other large international markets have developed models even stronger in premium,” Vincer said. “We see potential in the future to add greater in-app premium capabilities, and we are strategically planning for this future.”
One service Himalaya may take inspiration from for such premium content plans is Ximalaya FM. Run by Himalaya’s biggest investor, Ximalaya FM has become the largest spoken word audio sharing service in China, with a self-reported 400 million app downloads.
The two companies appear closely linked, but Vincer was quick to declare independence when asked about the relationship between the two companies this week. “We have access to the expertise and resources of Ximalaya, but are lucky and thankful to operate with an independent vision and unique goals,” he said.
Setting up Himalaya as an independent entity may have been a strategic decision in light of the current tension between the U.S. and China, as well as the constraints a spoken word platform operates under in that country. The setup also helps to ensure that Himalaya isn’t associated with some of Ximalaya’s more peculiar efforts: Last year, the Chinese company launched a dedicated version of its smart speaker for members of the Chinese communist party.
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