Authors/Film & TV entertainment startup Pocket FM

Published on June 24th, 2024 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


Another Netflix in the making? This Entertainment Startup is Quietly Leading the Charge with Audio Series

How entertainment startup Pocket FM is quietly rewriting the entertainment rulebook with Audio Series

What’s common to Netflix and Pocket FM? Both are known to be pioneers who prefer not to play by the rulebook. The first revolutionized video entertainment by bringing it into the comforts of living rooms, and the second took entertainment out of the home, turning it into an on-the-go affair.

During the past decade and a half, Netflix revolutionized entertainment with captivating ‘originals’—starting with serialized television drama—that induced the habit of non-stop consumption, popularly known as ‘binge watching’.

Likewise, 2018-born startup Pocket FM is rewriting the playbook for non-music entertainment with its Audio Series, or serialized dramatic adaptation of stories that people are ‘binge listening’—especially the Americans.

The quantum of engagement, according to listenership data compiled by the startup, is higher than any other entertainment platform, especially in the US. Its 10 million registered users in the United States spend an average of 135 minutes listening to content on the platform daily—20 minutes higher than the global average of 115 minutes.

But how did the startup do it?

Like Netflix Originals, Pocket FM shows feature captivating plots backed by gripping storytelling and intelligent episode endings that leave listeners curious to know ‘what happens next’. That’s the core of this startup’s flagship Audio Series—the modern avatar of good-old audio drama that used to dominate American entertainment between 1920 and 1960.

A peek into the history

American history remembers the Halloween of 1938 for a different reason. On October 30, CBS Radio Network aired a dramatic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ science fiction story “The War of the Worlds.” The live broadcast played as a full-cast audio drama that seemed so real to many who listened to it that American police struggled to keep the law and order situation under control as people fled homes trying to escape the ‘Gas Raid from Mars.’ Helplines never stopped ringing that night.

The next morning, the front page of The New York Times read, “Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact.”

While “The Wars of the Worlds” was undoubtedly the most remarkable audio adaptation of fiction, it was not the only or first full-cast audio drama. From the 1920s to the 1960s, radio drama—most cast with multiple actors playing respective roles—was the most preferable and successful form of entertainment, bringing joy, thrills, and tears to millions of listeners worldwide.

Over the years, after cable television made inroads, radio drama and non-music audio entertainment, in general, became a thing of the past.

Reviving the old art

Non-music audio entertainment made a comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay home longer than ever before. This, in turn, resulted in excessive screen time, eventually leading to “screen fatigue,” and people started looking for alternatives. Slowly, non-music audio entertainment started gaining pace.

Like every other entertainment app, Pocket FM experimented with possible innovations. One outcome was an “audio series,” but something was missing.

Based on research and market analysis, the startup embarked upon a project that would multiply user engagement. It decided to revive good-old full-cast radio dramas in their modern avatar—“Full-cast Audio Series.”

“We identified an unexplored space in the entertainment industry driven by an increasing demand for audio fiction and crafted a playbook to address this opportunity across every key market,” said Pocket FM CEO and co-founder Rohan Nayak in a recent press release

Listeners love it

Within a short time, Pocket FM’s revived audio series turned out to be consumers’ darling, with an estimated 1.3 billion addressable users worldwide. According to Redseer, the audio series market was estimated to be worth $21-25 billion globally in 2023. “The value is projected to grow 2X in the next 5 years,” noted the February 2024 report.

“Over the last 2 years, Audio Series was projected to grow at a CAGR of 640%, translating to over 40X growth from 2021 to 2023,” the study further adds.

In general, Americans are engaging with audio content like never before. In 2023, about 70% of the US population listened to online audio every week, primarily for entertainment, according to Edison Research’s 2023 Infinite Dial report. The number was just 6% back in 1998.

While the audio series category is at a nascent stage, Pocket FM is leading the space with over 2,000 high-quality audio series. It’s visible on the startup’s books as well. Pocket FM shows like “Insta Millionaire” (1 billion plays), “Saving Nora” (500 million plays), and several others have clocked over $10 million worldwide, while there are 15 more audio series that have exceeded $1 million in audience collections.


About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.

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