Five suitors came calling, including satellite radio company SiriusXM, but in the end public radio’s “This American Life” decided to go it alone. The popular weekly program was notifying stations Wednesday that it will distribute the show itself beginning in July when its distribution contract with Public Radio International ends.
The news in March that “This American Life” and PRI were ending their relationship, which began in 1997, set off a scramble among public media rivals who wanted to add the show to their bundles of offerings.
In a letter sent to stations Wednesday, Ira Glass, the program’s host, disclosed that SiriusXM “asked how much money it would take to get us to quit public radio completely, to abandon terrestrial radio the way Howard Stern did, and play exclusively on Sirius-XM. So flattering! But of course, no chance of that happening.”
In a telephone interview, Glass declined to identify the other suitors except for NPR, whose executives he said came impressively armed with a list of cities where they believed the show could be broadcast at a better time. (He’s keeping the list, he said, adding “Thank you, NPR!”)
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Suitors, he said, also felt the show was undercharging the more than 580 stations that carry it, but Glass said the price would not change.
After weighing the options, Glass said, “It seemed like at this point in our show’s development there was nothing a distributor could do for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves.” Self-distribution, he added, will give the show more control over its arrangements and possibly allow it to raise and keep more money from sponsors.
Starting in July, the audio files for the show will be delivered to the stations over the Internet through the online platform PRX, The Public Radio Exchange, and not via public radio’s satellite system, as they are now.
“This American Life” will handle the tasks of finding sponsors and working with local stations on marketing and setting the times the show is broadcast.
Listeners should not notice anything different, said Jake Shapiro, chief executive of PRX.
In the Seattle area, “This American Life” is broadcast Saturdays at 11 a.m. on KUOW 94.9 and at noon on KPLU 88.5.