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Vox Media Acquires Narrative Podcast Studio Criminal Productions.

Vox Media has spent 2021 striking deals to expand its podcast portfolio and that focus continues as the year comes to its final weeks. Vox has bought Criminal Productions, the narrative studio founded in 2013 by former public radio journalists Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer.

By aligning with a bigger company, plans for rapid growth at Criminal Productions are already on the drawing board. As part of the Vox Media Podcast Network, Criminal Productions will more than double its staff. It will also expand its flagship narrative true crime series Criminal into a weekly show and launch other new serialized shows. Vox says it will also explore opportunities to expand the franchises beyond podcasting, potentially including subscription products, further investment in live events, and intellectual property development.

In addition to Criminal, Judge and Spohrer have also launched two other podcasts including This Is Love and the daily series Phoebe Reads A Mystery. Under the new ownership, the Vox Media Podcast Network will also manage podcast advertising sales beginning in January, transitioning from PRX’s Radiotopia podcast network where Criminal Productions ad sales have been based since 2015.

“After making these shows independently for the past seven years, we are delighted to join the talented journalists and podcast team at Vox Media,” said Judge. “This new chapter gives us a perfect home to grow Criminal, launch new shows, and bring even more stories to our listeners,” she said in the announcement.

Judge previously was a host at North Carolina Public Radio WUNC Raleigh-Durham, NC (91.5) and a producer for American Public Media's “The Story with Dick Gordon.” Before starting Criminal, Spohrer was a producer at National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” and “The Bryant Park Project” and also worked at American Public Media's “The Story with Dick Gordon.”

Their breakout show Criminal explores the unexpected side of true crime, telling thoughtful, complex stories that are deeply reported with compassion. It has become a fixture on “best of” lists worldwide.

“Criminal broke new artistic ground when it launched, and Phoebe and Lauren have built it into an impressive business. As a longtime admirer of their work, I’m thrilled to see how we can take it to the next level as part of Vox Media Podcast Network, while broadening the network’s scope into new genres,” said Marty Moe, President of Vox Media Studios.

Financial terms of the deal were not released.

The addition of Criminal Productions caps off a year of robust growth at Vox Media. In April, Vox Media acquired Cafe Studios, the podcast-first media company known for Preet Bharara’s podcast Stay Tuned with Preet. In September it formed a long-term strategic partnership between its Eater brand with the food podcast Gastropod. And it bought the podcast newsletter Hot Pod. Vox also formed sales and distribution partnerships with popular podcasts including The Prof G Pod with Scott Galloway, Longform, and Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast. And the Vox Media Podcast Network launched nearly a dozen new original shows over the past year.

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