Sharon Osbourne has decided to un-cancel herself. After getting the boot from The Talk in March for clashing on screen (and off) with co-host Sheryl Underwood, the 69-year-old will launch her own show on PodcastOne later this quarter that will feature “interviews with celebrities and everyday people,” along with an even more unfiltered version of her former talk-show self.
“It’s kind of a gift to be able to talk about things that interest you and to be able to chat with people of your choosing,” says Osbourne, who still believes she was unfairly silenced for defending Piers Morgan and his polarizing comments about the Duchess of Sussex. Asked whether she’ll address her controversial last days on The Talk that included accusations of racially insensitive comments, Osbourne says, “I’m not done talking about cancel culture.”
Whether it’s relaunching (or rehabbing) a career, going behind the scenes of a popular TV show, or swapping stories with a fellow actor, podcasting has become the go-to answer for celebrities looking for a little autonomy. Cheap to do and even easier to launch, podcasting gives famous folks like Ellen Pompeo, Dakota Johnson, Seth Rogen, and John Stamos a chance to connect with their fans in ways they never have before.
About one-third of Americans — that’s 104 million people — are listening to podcasts regularly, with comedy-themed shows ranking among the most popular. Comedian and former Fear Factor host Joe Rogan is currently the most listened-to podcaster in the nation, with Office Ladies, hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, also cracking the top 10. Meanwhile, Rogan’s Man Show predecessor Adam Carolla ranked in 2020’s top 50 with his eponymous podcast that launched in 2009. Newer comedy-and-celebrity entries like SmartLess (a year-old podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes) and Literally! With Rob Lowe are rapidly gaining listeners and buzz.
What’s in it for the celebs? Money, for one. Hosts either draw a salary or share in the profits from advertisers, who have spent $1 billion on podcasts this year because of their ability to reach educated and affluent listeners. Armchair Expert, which Dax Shepard hosts with actress Monica Padman, earned a reported $9 million in 2020. That same year, Rogan landed an astonishing $100 million pact from Spotify for facilitating he-man discussions about mixed martial arts, hunting, and everything he hates about mask and vaccination mandates.
In addition to steady income, podcasts also give celebs creative freedom. In October, Rogen launched Storytime With Seth Rogen for Stitcher, a series that invites fellow actors to share a great tale about pretty much anything they’ve experienced. “It’s helpful if it’s something that had an impact on your life or your work,” Rogen told EW in October. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a story about s—ting your pants at Disney World.”
Messy or not, the industry will take all the stories it can get: SiriusXM’s president and chief content officer Scott Greenstein — whose company acquired Stitcher — believes we are only in the second inning of the podcast game, with nearly 2.4 million podcasts available to listeners in 2021 (though only 22 percent, or 552,000, are active with fresh episodes). “Whenever you see the intersection between creative freedom and economics starting to work,” he says, “you’re going to find celebrities paying attention.”
Fans are paying attention …….