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Multiple creators who have left the podcast network Kast Media say the company owes them significant sums of money — amounting to six or seven figures for advertising sold on their shows. A few creators have gone public on social media, and others have individually confirmed to Hot Pod that the company has not paid them for several months.
Instead of making the delinquent payments, Kast CEO Colin Thomson formally or informally offered creators a deal where they would be paid a partial amount of the money owed in cash and the rest in shares of PodcastOne on the condition that they sign an agreement to take their podcasts to the new company as a part of a proposed IP acquisition, several creators told Hot Pod. PodcastOne, a former subsidiary of LiveOne, has since spun out into a separate public company and went live on the Nasdaq last week.
Comedian Whitney Cummings, who hosts the podcast Good For You, told Hot Pod that she believes Kast Media owes her at least $350,000 for ad sponsorships — though the amount could be more.
“The whole thing is a nightmare,” Cummings wrote in an email. Cummings, who signed a multiyear partnership with Kast back in December 2021, left the network in June. Several other high-profile creators have left Kast, including Theo Von, Logan Paul, Jason Ellis, and Tony Hawk.
First launched in 2016, the Santa Monica, California-based Kast Media quickly stood out as an independent podcast network with an eye toward video podcasts as well as film and TV development. As recently as last December, it ranked No. 10 in Edison Research’s list of podcast networks with the greatest reach. Kast Media was hurt by this year’s soft ad market, though, and like many other audio companies, went through layoffs.
In May, Kast and LiveOne announced a proposed IP acquisition where more than two dozen podcasts in the Kast Media network — including Good For You — would join LiveOne’s ranks.
But Kast left out a crucial detail: Kast’s podcasters would have to agree to this. Cummings and a number of other creators have yet to sign a deal with PodcastOne at all. Several creators in Kast’s network told Hot Pod that they were not consulted before the press release was published.
One thing that’s important to note is that LiveOne never truly acquired Kast — the former entered into what’s known as a “letter of intent” to acquire certain assets of Kast’s IP portfolio. The press release contained a caveat that plainly stated the proposal was far from a sure thing: “The letter of intent with Kast Media is non-binding … There can be no assurance that the proposed acquisition will be completed and/or within the anticipated timeline.”
While issues at Kast started becoming apparent to some creators as early as fall 2021, people who worked on both the business side and the narrative podcast side of Kast tell Hot Pod that they didn’t realize anything was amiss until the spring of this year. Three creators told Hot Pod that they reached out to Thomson about missing checks, but when he didn’t respond, they began reaching out to others in the Kast office, including chief business officer Mike Jensen — who oversaw all sponsorship ad sales but didn’t normally work with creators.
Michael Ojibway, the creator of the true crime podcast Invisible Choir, who signed an exclusive ads sales deal with Kast in the fall of 2021, said he got into the habit of expecting late payments from Kast. His very first check from Kast arrived late, and so did every payment that followed. He noted that if he couldn’t reach Thomson, he would speak with either Jensen or Kast’s senior accountant, Michael Calabretta, neither of whom seemed to know when he would be paid.
“There were a number of points where I had a gut check. I was seeing the red flags, specifically with Colin but more broadly with how the company handled accounting specifically that led me to aggressively and proactively inquire about payment,” Ojibway said.
Issues with Kast escalated over the summer, as several creators began sharing that they weren’t getting paid. Then, things came to a head this month, when one of the biggest podcasters in the country spoke out. Former Kast podcast network host Theo Von posted a roughly 10-minute video on YouTube on September 6th entitled “This Man Defrauded Our Podcast” in which he alleged that Kast Media owes him and a group of other creators over $4 million for ads served on their shows. Von, who hosts the chart-topping podcast This Past Weekend, left Kast at the beginning of the year and joined Rooster Teeth’s podcast network back in March.
“Our podcast was defrauded. We were stolen from. We were taken advantage of — there are a lot of ways to say it. The company that did it is Kast Media, and the man that did it is Colin Thomson,” said Von. He estimated that Kast owed This Past Weekend a six-figure sum, though he said he spoke to creators who allege that the company owes them seven figures in back pay.
Von’s video, which has been viewed over 1.5 million times, was posted two days before PodcastOne debuted its listing on the Nasdaq. Shares of PodcastOne fell shortly after trading opened on September 8th, dropping from $8 per share to over $4. At the time of publication of this article, PodcastOne is listed at $2.78 per share.
In an email to Hot Pod, Von said that he personally knew of six different creators who were owed amounts that ranged between $1.5 million and $600,000. Von said Kast owes his show an amount that’s in the six figures.
A couple of other hosts have gone public about their dealings with Kast on social media. Jason Ellis, who co-hosts the Hawk vs Wolf podcast with Tony Hawk, posted a tell-all video on Instagram last week where he called the duo’s two-year deal with Kast “one of my biggest regrets in podcasting.” He stated that Kast still owed the duo money from host-read ads that ran on their show.
“If you see Colin Thomson named on any podcast, just know that’s who you’re dealing with.”
“If you see Colin Thomson named on any podcast, just know that’s who you’re dealing with. And if you’re a podcaster and any of those guys reach out to you, just know that I haven’t met a bigger piece of shit,” Ellis said in the video.
In an Instagram message, Ellis confirmed to Hot Pod that both Hawk vs Wolf and his own podcast, The Jason Ellis Show, signed with Malka Media. “We are not getting any money back haha,” Ellis wrote.
Jim Cornette and Brian Last, co-hosts of The Jim Cornette Experience, have also gone public about Kast owing them money. Last and Cornette have posted a series of YouTube videos over the past two months where they recount their interactions with the company, throw insults at Thomson, and spill mostly unverified tea. Cornette and his podcasts are now part of Rhapsody Voices, a new podcast network launched by Jensen, who left his role as Kast’s chief business officer this summer.
Scott Porch, the founder of Big IP Media, which includes the podcasts The John Campea Show Podcast, The Big Thing, Dan Murrell Podcast, and Star Wars Explained, signed a multiyear distribution deal with Kast back in February. But he left shortly after and signed an exclusive ad deal with Libsyn’s AdvertiseCast in July. The first payment from Kast was the only one that arrived on time, Porch noted. He said in a text message to Hot Pod that Kast owes Big IP Media over $150,000.
All told, PodcastOne has only secured deals with a handful of former Kast podcasts: Brendan Schaub’s network of podcasts, The Schaub Show, The Fighter and the Kid, and The Golden Hour, as well as Some More News and spinoff podcast Even More News, hosted by Cody Johnston and Katy Stoll.
Thomson was involved in some early talks to join the ranks at PodcastOne. But the company is no longer planning to bring him on, according to both Thomson and LiveOne CEO Rob Ellin.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance last week, Ellin indicated that the company knew Kast was in bad condition — and that turning its assets around was the point of the deal. “We’ve bought a … very distressed, troubled asset,” he said of the still-in-the-works IP acquisition of Kast’s podcasts, adding that it “owed a lot of money to its podcasters and couldn’t really afford to pay them.”
Thomson responded to the numerous allegations against him in a phone call with Hot Pod on Tuesday. His version of events is this: Kast got underwater due to this year’s soft ad market, and the company fell behind on its payments to creators. Thomson met with investors in March and claimed that none were interested in investing in podcasting. He finally met Ellin in late April, and they began exploring a way for PodcastOne to serve as a potential lifeboat.
“PodcastOne has as good of a reputation as anyone in the space. They were coming up with deals for Kast shows that were strong,” Thomson said.
While Thomson acknowledged that PodcastOne originally wanted to offer him a position at the company, he stressed that it wasn’t his priority. “I should say that was explored early on, but it was never a focus for me. I never tried to negotiate anything,” he said. Thomson’s real priority, he insisted, was the creators.
“I don’t deserve some of the things that were said about me, but I do deserve some of the things that were said about me too.”
As to the videos by Von and the hosts of The Jim Cornette Experience, Thomson has a mixed response. “I don’t deserve some of the things that were said about me, but I do deserve some of the things that were said about me too,” Thomson said. He acknowledged that some creators may have been “unhappy” with the deals offered by PodcastOne or being left in the dark about Kast’s financial status for so long. He understood that creators were angry with him and guessed that many of them felt “led on” by him. He denied all allegations of fraud, though he stressed that there were “business decisions” he regretted.
“I’ve done plenty of soul searching and reflecting, and I think as a business leader, you have to weigh the pros and cons.”