Amazon to Acquire Podcast Studio Wondery
Amazon announced that it inked a deal to acquire Wondery, a four-year-old podcast producer.
Terms of the deal, under which the Wondery team will join the Amazon Music group, were not disclosed. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was in talks to buy Wondery in a deal worth over $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,” the e-commerce giant said in announcing the deal Wednesday. “With Amazon Music, Wondery 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 deal has yet to close, pending usual closing conditions. According to Amazon, “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.”
This past June, Wondery founder and CEO Hernan Lopez told Variety that the company had about 20 million monthly unique listeners.
After Amazon’s deal for Wondery closes, Lopez will step down as CEO to focus on his recently announced Hernan Lopez Family Foundation and Wondery COO Jen Sargent will take over day-to-day operations, according to Amazon.
The acquisition of Wondery is part of Amazon’s strategy to monetize the podcast gold rush — and keep pace with Spotify’s push into podcasting. In September, Amazon Music launched several million episodes of free podcasts and announced a slate of original podcasts being produced exclusively for Amazon Music, including shows from DJ Khaled, Becky G, Will Smith and Dan Patrick. In addition, Amazon-owned Audible recently added about 100,000 podcast shows, encompassing 5 million episodes.
“This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve,” Amazon said in announcing the Wondery pact. “Wondery is already delighting listeners with its collection of immersive podcasts, and the company is evolving this entertainment medium into a truly new and exciting experience.”
Wondery’s original shows include “Dr. Death,” “Bad Batch,” “The Shrink Next Door,” “Business Wars,” “Joe Exotic: Tiger King,” “American History Tellers,” “Tides of History,” “The Daily Smile” and “Imagined Life.”
Wondery had raised about $15 million to date. The company’s investors include Lerer Hippeau, Greycroft, BDMI, Advancit Capital, Water Tower Ventures, Powerhouse Ventures and Waverley Capital, the VC firm formed by Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Luminari Capital’s Daniel Leff.
Lopez, formerly CEO of 21st Century Fox’s Fox International Channels, founded L.A.-based Wondery in 2016 with the mission of producing high-quality scripted and unscripted podcast entertainment. This past April, federal prosecutors indicted Lopez on charges of bribing South American soccer officials when he was at Fox allegedly in exchange for broadcasting rights as well as confidential bidding information for U.S. broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. Lopez pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A key revenue stream for Wondery has been adapting its most popular original podcasts for TV. For example, Universal Content Productions is developing a “Joe Exotic” show based on the Wondery podcast with Kate McKinnon set to star and executive produce. UCP also is producing a series adaptation of Wondery’s “Dr. Death” for NBCUniversal’s Peacock, with Jamie Dornan, Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin set to star.
In the deal with Amazon, Wondery was advised by investment bank LionTree, which also advised on SiriusXM’s acquisition of podcast network and producer Stitcher and the New York Times’ deal for Serial Productions, the company behind the 2014 “Serial” smash hit.
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