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I recently lost my iPhone 5 and had to restore to an old iPhone 4S until the iPhone 6 is released. My iCloud backup was current so I lost very little. My podcast subscriptions were maintained through the backup/restore and were available again in the Podcasts app after they downloaded the episodes I previously had downloaded and queued. All of this worked as expected.

A day or 2 after the restore was complete, I noticed 3 stuck downloads. They wouldn't complete and if I cancelled them they kept coming back and failing to download. I didn't recognize the naming scheme of the episodes so I started looking further and found 3 new podcasts were listed in the application. These podcasts were completely new to me and nothing I would have ever subscribed to or tried to download. They are all on topics I have never podcasted on so I have full confidence they aren't renamed versions of other podcasts I've listened to before. My suspicion is they are the result of either data corruption in the podcasts feed configuration from my backup/restore, or from data corruption in how Apple handles the sync. Specifically they are:

  • TWIMA: This Week In Martial Arts
  • Edward Daniel Podcast
  • Cape First Podcast

I've tried everything that I can think of and everything I can find online short of removing the Podcasts application. From recollection, this is what I've tried:

  • Edit the podcast list, and delete the offending podcasts - when I do this they do disappear but come back after the application is closed and reopened
  • Edit each podcast to remove the offending episode that keeps trying to download - when I do this the episode disappears but comes back after the application is closed and reopened
  • Subscribe to the podcast, wait, then unsubscribe to the podcast - no effect
  • Mark the episode as played and allow it to be auto-deleted - no effect
  • Turn on podcast sync in Settings - no effect
  • Turn off podcast sync in Settings - no effect
  • View my podcasts in iTunes - these podcasts aren't listed
  • Turn on podcast syncing in iTunes, find the podcasts, I can only find TWIMA and Edward Daniel, subscribe to them, then unsubscribe and delete them - no effect
  • Turn off podcast syncing in iTunes - no effect
  • Download other episodes of the podcast and delete those episodes and then the offending podcast - the podcasts disappear but come back after the app is closed and reopened, and the successfully downloaded episode is not shown, only the download that fails
  • (I'm sure I've forgotten other options)

I don't want to delete all my podcast subscriptions and delete the application if I can avoid that. I have a lot of played history on some very long running podcasts that would take a lot of effort to store in text and rebuild afterwards. If I uninstall the Podcasts app, will it remember my played history? I would be willing to try that if it should keep my play history (after I've dumped my history to text JIC). I'm also curious if another backup/restore would have some chance of success.

FWIW: I don't have any other podcasts applications tied to my iCloud/iTunes account that would be causing this injection.

Any help or advice on how to permanently deleted these episodes and podcasts would be greatly appreciated.

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I am having a similar problem: I had 18 podcast eposodes that were stuck attempting to download. I was able to get rid of 17 of them by manually downloading each one by searching the name in the podcast app. After manually downloading them, a restart of the phone would remove the stuck downloads. That might fix your issue, if you haven't solved it. My further problem is that the 18th stuck episode is no longer available.

I am going to attempt a restore but I expect to have the same issue afterward.

  • Thanks Rick, I tried this approach and it didn't help in my situation. iOS released yesterday with the new integrated podcasts app so my fingers are crossed that my upgrade will fix it. – Chris Porter Sep 19 '14 at 15:04
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I know that this is an old thread, but I have recently struggled with that problem so I thought that I would post what seems to have fix the problem for me.

After upgrading my iPhone 5S to an iPhone 6, I restored my profile and started re-downloading all the data and files. When I got to the Podcasts app, it tried to re-download a podcast episode from a podcast that had been removed from the iTunes store since I originally downloaded it on my previous phone. At that point, every time I restarted the Podcasts app, the podcast appeared in the items downloading list but could never be downloaded successfully.

I tried everything mentioned here. Even after unsubscribing, when I would restart the app, the podcast reappeared and the app tried to download the podcast episode. I then observed that in the iTunes app the podcast episode was also stuck downloading.

That's when I remembered another syncing problem that was solved by signing out of the iTunes Store and that maybe the iTunes Store was the reason the podcast kept reappearing.

Try the following steps :

  • Sign out from the iTunes Store in Settings>iTunes & App Store
  • Open Podcasts app
  • Cancel the download of the podcast episode by swiping right-to-left and clicking Cancel
  • Unsubscribe from podcast
  • Delete podcast by swiping right-to-left and clicking Delete
  • Power off phone and restart
  • Open Podcasts app, if the app is still attempting to download the episode, repeat the cancel, unsubscribe and delete steps
  • Power off phone and restart
  • Sign in back to the iTunes Store in Settings>iTunes & App Store
  • Power off phone and restart
  • Open Podcasts app to make sure the podcast and the attempt at downloading the episode are gone

It seems to have fix the problem. Hope this helps, this thing was driving me crazy. Good luck all !

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I was able to solve the problem through a combination of updating to iOS 8 and restoring to a new phone. I can't say for sure which step solved the problem but I suspect it was the new version of the Podcast app in iOS 8. The ghost podcasts did show up after the restore to the new phone but the episodes weren't trying to download. A quick delete of the episodes and they haven't been seen from again.

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Near the top of the page it says "[#] items downloading". Tap on that statement and you get a new page with all the stuck episodes. You can swipe each one to delete them. That worked for me.

  • Thanks Kurt, but this definitely didn't work in my situation. I lost count trying to cancel failed downloads around the 50th unsuccessful attempt. – Chris Porter Oct 21 '14 at 18:44

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