August 2, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Amazon Music to acquire ‘Dr. Death’ podcast producer Wondery

Amazon Music on Wednesday announced it will acquire West Hollywood-based podcast company Wondery, producer of such programs as “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door.”

The deal would further solidify Amazon’s foothold in the fast-growing podcast business. The company — whose Audible division is a leader in audiobooks — ventured into the medium in September.

“We hope to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts by bringing creators, hosts and immersive experiences to even more listeners across the globe, just as we do with music,” Amazon Music said in a statement. “This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve.”

Amazon Music said the deal has not yet closed. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Wondery was looking to sell the company for at least $300 million, a source who was not authorized to comment said.

The acquisition announcement comes as large radio and music streaming companies are expanding their reach into podcasts. Audio programs are seen as a key way to attract audiences, keep them engaged and lure more advertising.

“If you really want to get to some level of scale, Wondery is a good place to do that,” said Ray Wang, principal analyst of Constellation Research Inc. “There is a battle for content.”

Amazon Music’s acquisition follows other investments made in the podcast space by its rivals. Amazon Music, which offers paid and ad-supported streaming options, has more than 55 million customers.

Starting last year, Spotify began investing heavily in the podcast space, buying up companies including Gimlet Media and Parcast. This year, Spotify bought the Ringer as well as podcast ad platform Megaphone. There are also podcasts exclusively on Spotify including “The Michelle Obama Podcast.”

Wondery has taken a different approach, with many of its podcasts available on multiple platforms. Amazon Music, a division of the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, said it plans to keep it that way.

“When the deal closes, nothing will change for listeners, and they’ll continue to be able to access Wondery podcasts through a variety of providers,” Amazon Music said.

Other large podcast acquisitions in 2020 include SiriusXM buying podcast company Stitcher for up to $325 million.

Before Amazon’s announcement, Wondery remained one of the few remaining large independent podcast publishers. As the industry consolidated, speculation intensified that the business would be acquired.

The company, founded in 2016, has produced more than 50 podcasts with 16 shows in TV development. Wondery has worked with the L.A. Times on its true crime tale “Dirty John” and produced and marketed two other Times podcasts, “Man in the Window” and “Detective Trapp.”

Earlier this year, Wondery Chief Executive Hernan Lopez faced questions about whether he should continue to lead the company after he was among two former Fox TV executives charged with money laundering and wire fraud over alleged bribes involving broadcasting rights to the World Cup and other high-profile soccer tournaments. Lopez has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“I’m completely confident that when I have the chance to be before a jury, if it ever gets to trial, I’ll be vindicated,” Lopez said in an interview with The Times earlier this year.

After the acquisition deal closes, Lopez will leave Wondery and the company’s Chief Operating Officer Jen Sargent will take over the leadership team, Amazon said. Lopez plans to focus on the Hernan Lopez Family Foundation.

“The Foundation will seek to help progress the fight against systemic bias and racism, while also enabling underrepresented individuals to break through these ceilings through grants, training and networking programs,” Lopez wrote on LinkedIn.