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Amazon buys Wondery

· Updated January 7, 2021 · By · 4.4 minutes to read

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Wondery has shown itself as a powerhouse for podcast publishing, especially launching new shows. Podtrac’s top 25 new podcasts of 2020 had eleven shows from Wondery, easily the largest publisher of new shows this year. Jen Sargent, who’ll take over management of the company, outlined her strategy last year.

However, unlike Gimlet or The Ringer, Wondery’s success has been international in scope, reaching agreements with a variety of advertising partners outside the US, like Canada, Australia and the UK, where it launched a joint venture with Stitcher.

Wondery was on track to bring in more than $40m in revenue this year; but crucially, 25% of this revenue is from licensing deals to TV, companies like Stitcher Premium and Amazon’s Audible, as well as its own Wondery Plus service and licensing with overseas partners.

Wonder has particularly spent considerable time adapting and translating its shows into other languages. Dr Death made it to the #1 slot simultaneously in five countries when it was translated, and the company has worked with local partners to launch their shows in other countries - here’s Business Wars in Japanese and in Arabic - and made an agreement with Universal Music Group to develop music podcasts. Wondery has been particularly active in Latin America - where Amazon, too, is strong.

Wondery has also spent time ensuring its business is more than just podcasts. Dirty John became a TV show for Bravo, Dr Death is under production for Universal, and The Shrink Next Door is to be made for Apple TV among many others that have been optioned for television.

Amazon is a good fit for Wondery. Amazon has a large international footprint, but also is in need of good, cheap content for Amazon Prime, their subscription video offering: content that Wondery is well-equipped to incubate. Amazon’s nascent podcasting platform appears to be growing well, though Amazon Podcasts’ limited international availability is one reason, perhaps, why the company is keen to stress that Wondery content will continue to be available across all podcasting platforms.

Amazon don’t get Wondery’s current CEO, Hernan Lopez: a charismatic leader, he’ll step down as the deal is done, saying “I will be transitioning out of the company to focus my attention on my recently announced Hernan Lopez Family Foundation, which is committed to addressing diversity in leadership both from the demand side as well as the supply side.” Lopez has been keen to add Hollywood-style razamatazz to the industry, working to launch The Podcast Academy earlier this year, which is focusing on their own awards ceremony The Ambies.

Is this the last big piece of M&A activity in podcasting? It was certainly the largest company still available: but there will be more acquisitions on the horizon. In particular, Amazon lacks the long tail that a consumer podcast host can give them - just as Acast bought Pippa, Spotify bought Anchor and SiriusXM bought Simplecast, Amazon could own a host of its own as a way to reach other platforms and to incubate new talent. Amazon also lacks any podcasting ad-tech companies; ART19, which hosts a number of the largest podcasts in the world, remains privately-owned. Let’s watch this space.

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