Amazon on Wednesday announced it will acquire West Hollywood-based podcast company Wondery, which has produced some of the most popular podcasts over the past few years, including “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door.”
“Amazon Music launched podcasts in September 2020, and together with Wondery, 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, a division of Seattle-based commerce giant Amazon, said in a statement. “This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve.”
Podcasts have been exploding in popularity, with nearly a third of Americans saying at the beginning of 2019 that they listened to at least one monthly. They offer media companies a fast-growing medium and an opportunity to build out their offerings without having to go through powerful interests like publishers and labels when licensing music, and studios when licensing films.
Amazon Music said the Wondery deal has not yet closed. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Bloomberg News first reported in September that Wondery was exploring a sale, and the Wall Street Journal said earlier this month that Amazon was in the lead at a valuation of around $300 million. Apple and Sony Music Entertainment each held talks about potentially acquiring the company. The podcasting firm had sought a price of $300 million to $400 million, people familiar with the matter have said.
The acquisition announcement comes as large radio and music streaming companies are expanding their reach into podcasts. 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 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.
Amazon, which began as an online seller of books, already has a dominant position in audiobooks through its Audible division. The company has commissioned programs from best-selling authors and celebrities, emerging as one of the biggest backers of original audio shows.
Before Amazon’s announcement, Wondery remained one of the few remaining large independent podcast publishers. Its revenue is expected to exceed $40 million in 2020, a person familiar with the matter has said.
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 L.A. Times podcasts, “Man in the Window” and “Detective Trapp.”
Efforts to turn podcasting into its own celebrity universe have attracted the likes of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Wondery’s founder, Hernan Lopez, a former Fox executive, has added Hollywood treatment to its podcasts, replete with tag lines, trailers and billboards.
Lopez will step down as chief executive when the deal with Amazon closes, and Jen Sargent, Wondery’s chief operating officer, will take over management, according to an Amazon spokesperson. In April, Lopez pleaded not guilty to federal charges accusing him of bribing soccer officials in South America in exchange for broadcasting rights when he was an executive at Fox Sports.
The New York Times and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.