Feb 5, 2020 - Economy & Business

Spotify acquires Bill Simmons' "The Ringer" to boost podcast business

Photo: Spotify

Spotify announced Wednesday plans to acquire The Ringer, a sports media company founded by former ESPN personality Bill Simmons.

Why it matters: The acquisition speaks to Spotify's massive investment in podcasting over the past year, as the company aims to expand its offering solely from music to audio including podcasts.

Details: This is Spotify's first major investment in a podcast content company. Deal terms were not disclosed.

  • Content: The move will help Spotify expand into global and local sports content. The Ringer currently owns and produces more than 30 podcasts, including its two most popular series, “The Bill Simmons Podcast” and "The Rewatchables." The company has leveraged some of its strong titles to broker other video and film deals.
  • Employees: All of The Ringer's roughly 90 employees are expected to join Spotify. No layoffs are planned with the deal.
  • Exclusivity: The Ringer shows that are currently exclusive on podcast platforms like Luminary and Pandora will remain exclusive. The programs available on all podcast platforms will be available everywhere for the foreseeable future. There may be some podcasts from The Ringer that become Spotify exclusives in the future, although that's not expected to be the case for the most part.

The big picture: This is Spotify's fourth major investment in a podcasting company in the past year. Its series of investments began last February with technology and production, and have more recently transitioned to content.

  • Last year, Spotify paid $340 million to acquire Gimlet, one of the fastest-growing podcast production studios, and Anchor, among the fastest-growing podcast production and hosting studios.
  • It later spent $56 million to acquire Parcast, a story-based podcast studio.
  • Spotify also recently announced a partnership with the Wall Street Journal to co-produce a podcast called "The Journal."

Be smart: While the new deal terms were undisclosed, it's hard to imagine that Spotify didn't pay at least tens of millions of dollars. The Ringer's podcast revenues surpassed $15 million in 2018 and the company says it's profitable.

  • Last year, Spotify said it would invest at least $500 million to boost its podcast business. Its purchases of three studios last year totaled about $400 million, meaning the company had room financially to make more acquisitions within its initial investment commitment range.

What they're saying: "We spent the last few years building a world-class sports and pop culture multimedia digital company and believe Spotify can take us to another level," Simmons said in a statement.

  • "We look forward to putting the full power of Spotify behind The Ringer as they drive our global sports strategy," said Dawn Ostroff, chief content officer at Spotify.

What's next: The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of this year.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 5,731,837 — Total deaths: 356,606 — Total recoveries — 2,376,542Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 1,703,989 — Total deaths: 100,651 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  4. Business: U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter — 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.
  5. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  6. ⚽️ Sports: English Premier League set to return June 17.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
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Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.