‘This American Life’ Loses Its Distributor

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After 17 years, Ira Glass’s incredibly popular radio show, This American Life, will no longer be distributed by Public Radio International.

“During our most recent negotiation, it became clear that our organizations’ expectations regarding our futures were different,” said PRI’s head of sales, marketing, and distribution.

PRI currently distributes the program to 587 stations that reach 2.2 million listeners. Additionally, separate from PRI, the program’s home stations, WBEZ Chicago, racked up $170,000 in fees in order to host the program on its website and make it available for streaming and download. The podcast version of the program consistently hovers near the top of iTunes’s charts.

PRI will stop distributing the show on July 1, leaving a window for other public radio companies to pick up the show. It is not clear who that will be yet.

Regardless, the show made sure to clarify that it was not going off the air, so don’t worry about Glass’s nasally voice disappearing anytime soon. Although, if you’ve fallen behind and want to catch up, I highly recommend last December’s “129 Cars.”

Update Friday, March 21: And here's the statement from This American Life (emphasis ours):

Ira writes:

We’re leaving our distributor Public Radio International. What this means for listeners is ... nothing! We’ll continue to make our radio show and podcast. The same public radio stations will continue to broadcast it. They just won’t be getting it through PRI.

PRI has been a great partner. When we signed up with them in 1997, we were already on over a hundred public radio stations. It’d taken us a year to get that many. In three months, PRI doubled the number. A miracle. Over the years since, they built that number to 587 stations.

But looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we're growing – especially on the digital side of things, which we’ve always done without PRI – both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways.

Most listeners I meet seem utterly unaware of who our distributor is, or they think – mistakenly – that we’re part of NPR. NPR is the company that puts out Morning Edition and All Things Considered and many fine programs. But there are several other companies that distribute public radio shows around the country. Local public radio stations get shows from all of them.

We’ll announce sometime soon what our new plan is to distribute the show to radio stations.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.