Broadcast giant iHeartMedia, which operates 850 radio stations in the US and has a thriving podcast business, plans a global launch of at least six hit podcast shows that will be translated into several major non-English languages.

The company said in a statement that the first slate of translated shows is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2020, with episodes made available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Hindi as well as other languages to follow.

The six initial podcasts so far have garnered more than two billion downloads combined and they include “Stuff You Should Know”, the tri-weekly show hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant that has been running for 11 years and is already one of the most popular podcasts in the world.

Other hit podcasts to be translated for international audiences include “Stuff You Missed in History Class”, “Stuff Mom Never Told You”, “Stuff to Blow Your Mind”, “BrainStuff” and “TechStuff”.

However, the New York Times noted that the process of translating American podcasts is likely to present iHeartMedia with “an interesting set of problems”, given their use of slang and quirky cultural references.

Yet Conal Byrne, president of the iHeartPodcast Network, expressed confidence that the company would be able to find the necessary talent to approximate the tone of the originals.

“I wouldn’t quite say we’re looking for the Josh and Chuck of India,” he said. “But you find really good voice talent – people who don’t just sit there and read a script, but can truly bring it to life.”

Meanwhile, iHeartMedia chief executive Robert W. Pittman told the NYT that he considers podcasts to be an essential part of the company’s offering.

“We realised that the behaviour of this consumer was the kind of behaviour we see on radio,” he said. “It’s companionship; it’s the human voice; somebody is keeping me company. We think of podcasts as a way for us to extend that companion relationship.”

There is much to play for. According to a recent Global Ad Trends report from WARC, podcasts could account for 4.5% of global audio advertising spend by 2022, a total of $1.6bn, or almost double the $885m expected to be spent this year.

Sourced from iHeartMedia, New York Times; additional content by WARC staff