Audio platform with backing from John Bishop launches in Manchester

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

A new audio on-demand network set up by four ex-BBC employees, Crowd Network, has launched today after securing half a million pounds in funding over lockdown.

Crowd Network raised £500,000 in seed funding from Enigma Holdings and has also received investment from comedian John Bishop, who will be launching a podcast with Crowd in September. The platform has planned seven titles to launch before the end of 2020, including shows aimed at the US market.

It has partnered with global podcast company Acast for hosting, distribution and promotion.

The leadership team comprises CEO Mike Carr, the former editor of BBC Radio Sport; content director Steve Jones, a radio and podcast producer; creative director Tom Fordyce, former BBC chief sports writer; and talent director Louise Gwilliam, former rugby union producer for BBC 5 Live.

It's backed by JMW Solicitors and strategic marketing agency MC2, with JMW's Mike Blood joining as non-executive director, and MC2 founder Mike Perls as chairman. Crowd is committed to developing talent within Greater Manchester, and giving opportunities to those from underrepresented communities.

Mike Carr, CEO at Crowd Network, said: “The best podcasts create communities and become a place where listeners feel they belong. That is what we will strive to do with every single podcast on our slate.

“Our vision is to be Europe’s largest audio-on-demand network. The UK podcast market is playing catch-up with the US, but we have a plan to blaze a trail and close that gap. Podcasts are on the cusp of moving from a niche to a mass-market channel and we aim to be at the vanguard as that transition takes place.

“We know our success hinges on developing the right talent and ensuring we are representative of the communities we serve. Diversity and inclusion will always sit at the heart of our decision making, and we believe Manchester will be a great enabler for us - given the deep talent pool and links between business, education and local government. The city region has our total commitment to creating the next generation of audio superstars and making the Manchester audio industry a global centre of excellence.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, added: “Audio-on-demand is an exciting and developing industry with huge potential. Building on the likes of BBC Sounds - which MediaCityUK is already becoming ‘the heart’ of - and being one of media’s high potential growth areas, audio on demand can be taken to the next level in Greater Manchester, which innovative companies like Crowd Network have ambitions to do. 

“It is fantastic that Greater Manchester is still benefitting from the BBC move to MediaCityUK almost 10 years ago, with spin offs of talent and ideas evolving from the BBC and other organisations that have clustered in the city region.

"Greater Manchester already boasts a £5 billion digital economy but growth in the sector and its inter-connections with creative and media assets will continue to propel the city-region’s economic performance by providing highly productive jobs and companies, as well as exciting start-ups and scale-ups like Crowd Network.”

Tim Newns, CEO of MIDAS, Greater Manchester’s inward investment agency, said: “For Crowd Network to have chosen to HQ in the city region is a massive boost to the ecosystem and our talent base, who will get more direct access to such an opportunity.

"It will help to elevate the city region’s already strong position and profile in the content space and create an internationally-significant cluster of expertise, which in turn will help us attract the next generation of innovative audio, broadcast and media companies to Greater Manchester. This is a fantastic investment and we look forward to supporting the team get fully embedded in the city region’s thriving media ecosystem.”

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