Amazon Closed Out 2020’s Podcast Expansion With Deal To Buy Wondery.
A three-month sale process has come to an end for Wondery, which has agreed to sell itself to Amazon. The tech giant has spent the past year building and launching its podcast business and the Wondery acquisition marks its largest investment in the medium to date. Terms of the deal – which has not yet closed – were not immediately released but earlier reports suggested Wondery could fetch a price tag of roughly $300 million.
“We’re pleased to announce that Wondery—an innovative podcast publisher with a track record of creating and producing top-rated podcasts—has signed an agreement to join Amazon Music,” said Amazon in the announcement. “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.”
In September Wondery hired financial advisors to look at options for the company, including a possible sale. After reportedly holding talks about a possible deal with Apple and Sony Music Entertainment, Amazon emerged as the likely buyer in early December when it was said to be in exclusive talks with Wondery.
There was no immediate word on whether Wondery founder and CEO Hernan Lopez would remain with the company. A TV veteran who was CEO of Fox International Channel, Lopez launched Wondery in 2016 with the backing of Twentieth Century Fox, now part of Disney, and venture-capital firms such as Waverley Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Greycroft Partners and Advancit Capital. Wondery’s payroll has about 65 employees, all of whom either own company stock or options.
Amazon Music began featuring podcasts in September with a mix of established and new, original shows produced exclusively for its streaming music service. It also has an array of podcasts from other publishers. Then in October, Amazon-owned Audible followed suit, adding roughly 100,000 podcasts from a similar list of publishers.
Prime Video Potential
Not only has Amazon moved to capture a part of the growing podcast business by adding spoken word content to the Amazon Music app in recent months, but its streaming Prime Video service could also be attracted to Wondery. The podcast studio has had a higher share of its shows licensed for TV and film than any other company. Lopez told Podcast News Daily in August that Wondery had 16 podcasts in TV development, with four ordered to series. A quarter of Wondery’s expected $40 million in revenue this year is likely to come from licensing its intellectual property to television producers. The remaining three-quarters will come from advertising sales. Subscription revenue from its Wondery Plus feature remains small.
“This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve,” said Amazon. “Our commitment to podcasts, our focus on high quality audio with the Amazon Music HD tier, and our recent partnership with Twitch to bring live streaming into the app, make Amazon Music a premiere destination for creators.”
Wondery is the home of such podcasts as Dirty John, Dr. Death, Business Wars and The Shrink Next Door. When it combines with Amazon Music, the podcast studio will “be able to provide even more high-quality, innovative content and continue their mission of bringing a world of entertainment and knowledge to their audiences, wherever they listen,” the tech titan said.
Podtrac reported Wondery was the fourth-biggest podcast publisher in November with a unique monthly audience of nine million in the U.S. and with nearly 59 million streams and downloads of its shows during November. That’s a jump from sixth place a month earlier. Only iHeartMedia, NPR and the New York Times were bigger among the publishers measured by Podtrac.