Amazon Music Acquires Podcast Publisher Wondery

The latest in a string of podcast acquisitions by major audio players

Amazon is getting serious about podcasting. Last week, Amazon Music announced that it will acquire indie podcast publisher Wondery. Amazon Music added podcasts to its streaming audio offerings in September 2020. The company will grow its podcast content catalog exponentially with the acquisition. Wondery is known for podcasts including Dirty John, Dr. Death, Business Wars, Joe Exotic: Tiger King, The Mysterious Mr. Epstein, JACKED and The Shrink Next Door. Amazon said that nothing will change for listeners, but Amazon Music listeners will benefit from new content, and Wondery will be able to share more innovative content to educate and entertain listeners. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but some media outlets are reporting that the deal is valued at least $300 million.

Accelerate growth

“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,” said Amazon in the company’s December 30, 2020 announcement. “This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve. 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 podcast options

In June of 2020, podcast publisher Wondery launched a free, ad-supported app for iOS and Android to supplement its premium podcast subscription service Wondery Plus, reports Variety. Wondery Plus is available for $4.99 per month, after a 7-day free trial, or $34.99 for an annual subscription, after a 14-day free trial. The goal with the ad-supported Wondery app is to upsell listeners to subscribe to Wondery Plus. At the time of the free app’s launch, Wondery had about 20 million monthly unique listeners. The company did not disclose how many listeners were paying subscribers.

“Very early on, when I started the company, we knew at some point we wanted to have our own place where listeners could listen to the Wondery shows,” said Hernan Lopez, founder and CEO of podcast publisher Wondery, in an interview with Variety. “But we also knew we had to wait until we had enough shows, and the Wondery brand had enough breadth for people to go through the trouble of downloading an app and use it on a daily basis.”

Amazon Music currently offers 6 million podcast episodes from a range of producers and topics, including The Washington Post’s The Next Four Years, The Dan Bongino Show, Smartless with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett, The First One by DJ Khaled, and NPR’s Wow in the World and Up First. Amazon Music is a free audio service available to members of Amazon Prime. Amazon also offers a paid subscription service, Amazon Music Unlimited, for $7.99 a month for Prime members or $9.99 a month for non-Prime members. Amazon Music, also called Prime Music, has about 2 million songs. Amazon Music Unlimited, offers about 50 million.

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Insider Take

Though podcasts are not new, the streaming audio format seems to be the one to watch in 2021. Only launching podcasts last fall, Amazon is way behind competitors like Spotify who are beefing up their own content libraries. In November, for example, Spotify announced a deal to buy podcast publisher Megaphone for $235 million. Megaphone hosts more than 5,500 podcasts, giving Spotify a wealth of new content, once the deal closes. In July 2020, SiriusXM agreed to buy podcast platform Stitcher from E. W. Scripps Co. for about $300 million, adding to its audio content library. Amazon’s acquisition of Wondery will help Amazon get up to speed with its competitors while also adding a recurring revenue stream to help offset the acquisition cost.