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ViacomCBS SVP of Podcasts on the Importance of Diverse Voices in the Medium



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February 17, 2021 | 5 min read

Megaphone sat down with ViacomCBS Senior Vice President of Podcasts, Steve Raizes, to dive into what to expect from podcasting in the new year and the endless opportunities the podcasting medium brings to life

Megaphone sat down with ViacomCBS Senior Vice President of Podcasts, Steve Raizes, to dive into what to expect from podcasting in the new year and the endless opportunities the podcasting medium brings to life.

What is your current day job ?

Steve Raizes: I am the Senior Vice President of Podcasts at ViacomCBS, heading up a team that supports the company’s expansive portfolio of podcasts in partnership with the brands. The depth and breadth of our IP allow us to entertain the entire human life cycle in terms of our audience, starting with kids and Nickelodeon, to teens and Gen Z with Awesomeness, to more broad demographics with the likes of Comedy Central, CBS Sports, and Showtime. At ViacomCBS, we get to think about all populations and psychographics as they relate to podcasting.

A great example of how we’re able to amplify our diverse reach at ViacomCBS was the recent simulcast of the AFC Wild Card game, which aired on CBS with a separate kid and family production that aired on Nickelodeon. As we are are thinking of how brands can work together and play off one another, it was a really great experience to see this co-viewing initiative come to life and for it to receive such great feedback. You will see some similar initiatives in the coming months that will highlight the fluidity between our brands in the podcast space.

What gets you excited about the podcast business today?

SR: We are at a pivotal moment in podcasting, which is super exciting – there is just so much great content and so many incredible storytellers. Audio holds a special place in my heart, dating all the way back to serialized radio on family road trips when I was a kid, so to be able to work in an ecosystem that allows us to extend our brand narratives beyond the screen is thrilling. Also, to be able to do this work at a time when so many people are discovering the medium and truly exploring what podcasts have to offer is amazing.

How do you see the evolution of podcasting continuing into 2021?

SR: It is a fascinating time in podcasting. I think fiction is a very interesting area, one where people will see a lot of growth in the next year. Additionally, I see diverse voices further evolving as audience engagement continues to increase across genres. ViacomCBS is extremely focused on bringing differentiated voices to the table in 2021 and we have a handful of new series in the works that will speak more directly to that.

What concerns do you have about the podcasting business?

SR: Well, we have outstanding IP at ViacomCBS; we create hit series and tentpole franchises across our portfolio. And with this beloved content comes the responsibility of honoring the quality of the shows, the characters, etc. What keeps me up at night is how we’re leveraging our resources to best expand each piece of IP in a way that is engaging, meaningful and authentic to fans everywhere. We are focused on doing it right and taking our time to develop podcasts that reflect the caliber of our series.

What are some of your personal favorite podcasts?

SR: I’ve had a blast going through the end of year top 10, top 100 podcast lists, and finding podcasts that are new to me. I’m still making my way through those lists and let me tell you, it is so much fun having a job where that is part of my remit.

Thinking through favorites, I try to listen to two new podcasts a week. A couple that stand out to me are "Appearances", which lives on the fiction spectrum and was so engaging, beautiful, strange and just special. I think everyone, and rightfully so, loved "Floodlines", which showcased amazing sound design and reporting. I also thought "Winds of Change" and "Outsiders", though very different tonally, were fantastic pieces of work.

What has surprised you about the podcasting business?

SR: The rapid acceleration of M&A in podcasting was surprising last year. It will be interesting to see how the landscape responds in 2021 and what that means for our overall growth and evolution as an industry.

What has changed in how you worked and are there any positive takeaways from your new work life?

SR: Overall, I think working from home has been good for podcast production. With so much shut down, we’ve seen a tremendous rush of people making the pivot into podcasting. For major television and film sets, there are a lot of considerations and protocols in place to shoot in-person. Podcasting offers a ton of flexibility in the logistics, which has been a huge positive for the audio industry at large. Patterns are being disrupted, and the result is driving more people to podcasts and presenting even more opportunities for production.

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