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Insider: April 30, 2021 — Platform Hiccups, Apple TV+ announces another original podcast, Meadowlark Licensing Deal

Follow-up to Spotify earnings. I mentioned yesterday that Spotify didn’t seem to include the price tag for the Locker Room acquisition in its earnings stuff this week, that the price hasn’t appeared to be made public, and that it was probably a modest sum.

Turns out, I was wrong on the second and third count. (And possibly the first, depending on when the financial statement comes out.) A reader kindly pointed me to the fact that Axios’ Dan Primack had the scoop on this last month, when his Pro Rata newsletter disclosed that the acquisition price for Betty Labs, the company that created Locker Room, was around $80 million in cash. So, not that modest. In fact, not modest at all.

Primack also listed out Betty Labs’ investors: GV, Precursor Ventures, Chapter One Ventures and Maveron.

Speaking of which, Spotify has apparently found a new name for Locker Room: Greenroom. IMHO, terribly boring name, but a very good movie.Platform hiccups. When writing about the Reply All update yesterday, I mentioned that there seemed to be some technical issues holding up the episode’s publication not just on Spotify itself, but also on the show’s website and various podcast apps.

An “ingestion issue” was what I heard, and a Spotify spokesperson has since told me: “We can confirm that we experienced an ingestion issue this morning, resulting in some delays in certain podcasts episodes being uploaded to the service. The issue is being addressed and we expect to have everything back to normal shortly.”

I believe the problem has since been resolved — the Reply All dispatch is accessible where it should be now — but alas, that hasn’t been the only podcast platform hiccup I’ve been hearing about: I’ve been hearing from more than a few podcast creators who are seeing big delays publishing through Apple Podcasts over the past week. For some, those troubles seem to go back even further. My sense is that things have been clearing up, at least as of this morning, but I imagine it might take a bit time before everybody goes back to normal. (Apple wouldn’t comment, by the way.)

Whatever bumps are happening here didn’t seem to be fully platform-wide, and it’s my understanding that a wide swathe of podcast creators and publishers didn’t experience any of this at all. Still, this is a situation that might unnerve some people. Such disruption coming at the exact same time — and are possibly technically related to — Apple and Spotify making huge changes, some of which may dramatically alter the ecosystem as we know it? Yikes.Speaking of Apple… While the team over at Cupertino (hopefully) works on whatever’s happening with the platform, the Apple TV+ division has another original audio programming announcement.

From the Hollywood Reporter: “Apple Lands Siegfried & Roy Podcast As Tech Giant Steps Up Move Into Original Audio Series.” The series will be produced by Steven Leckart,a director and producer on Netflix’s Challenger: The Final Flight, and Will Malnati of podcast production company At Will Media. UTA brokered the deal.

Like The Line, this production is being billed as an Apple TV+ podcast. But unlike The Line, this Siegfried & Roy podcast doesn’t come attached to visual documentary slated for Apple TV+ distribution, meaning that this is Apple TV+’s first standalone original podcast.

This, of course, complicates the narrative a little bit. My read on Apple’s original podcast push continues to interpret those projects as fundamentally being marketing vessels for other parts of Apple’s businesses: The Zane Lowe Podcast for Apple Music, For All Mankind companion podcast for Apple TV+, and so on.

Apple TV+ creating a podcast that exists and of itself doesn’t necessarily negate this read. After all, this Siegfried & Roy podcast would theoretically still promote awareness around the Apple TV+ business, and deepens a brand narrative of the Apple TV+ team being a solid storytelling crew.

But still, this does bring us closer to some sort of arms race narrative. Is this a situation where we’re looking at Apple TV+ competing with Spotify as a podcast publisher while Apple Podcasts competes with Spotify as a platform? Fascinating.

MeanwhileFrom Variety: “Apple Revenue Soars 54% on Booming iPhone Sales in Fiscal Q2, Reaches 660 Million Paid Subscriptions.” Those subs runs across TV, music, and gaming.

Speaking of At Will Media… Apparently the studio also announced another project earlier this week: an Audible production that pitches itself as the first-ever audio-only singing competition EP’d by At Will and… The Chainsmokers. Double yikes.

The Big Gamble. I continue to be extremely interested in whatever former ESPN types Dan Le Batard and John Skipper are cooking up over at Meadowlark, and earlier this week, the fledgling media company announced an intriguing deal with DraftKings, the sports betting operator, that’ll set them up well for its first few years.

The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Mullin, he who scoops on Sunday evenings, has the details:

Draftkings is a leader in the growing digital sports-betting industry. Now, it is making a move to be a bigger player in the media sector.

The digital entertainment and gaming company agreed to pay at least $50 million over three years to distribute a popular sports and pop-culture podcast hosted by former ESPN host Dan Le Batard, people familiar with the matter said. DraftKings is looking to make money on the deal by selling advertising and sub-licensing the podcast to radio stations and other audio providers, other people said.

Don’t be surprised at the DraftKings side of the equation: Axios’ Sara Fischer had previously reported on the sport betting operator’s growing investments in media, which it bets will be a more effective way to maintain engaged relationships with customers compared to paid marketing. (The thing I wrote about Netflix hiring for a Head of Audio last week is more or less part of this trend.)

I think this licensing deal is an enormously smart move for Le Batard, Skipper, and Meadowlark, who are now in a position to spend the next three years chiefly focused on the editorial and creative side of things while having a considerable runway to figure out the business side. Natural alignment, too.I’m not sure if I feel too young or too old for this. From the Hollywood Reporter: “The NYU Girls, stars of the Clubhouse comedy show NYU Girls Roasting Tech Guys, have signed with WME. The group is made up of eight college friends who launched an interactive comedy room with a dating-game format that went viral overnight on the new social audio platform.”

Clubhouse: creators, creators, creators.Ad Watch.

Yesterday, Nielsen announced the launch of a new measurement solution specifically designed to hit “digitally inserted ads in a live podcasting setting.” Given the overarching shift towards streaming, this’ll probably come in useful. Here’s the press release.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Acast announced Sponsored Stories, a new ad unit meant to give advertisers “longer spots with high production values, more opportunity for storytelling, and a greater share of voice within ad breaks.” So, like, longer woo-woo ads, basically. Anyway, keep an eye on Acast. Some rumbles there.Layoffs at Patreon.From Protocol: “Patreon recently laid off 36 employees from its product design and engineering teams, its CEO Jack Conte said in a YouTube video he released Wednesday.” This comes not long after the company raised a new $155 million funding round, which brought its valuation up to $4 billion. On the video, Conte pegged the layoffs to a shift in strategy, which, fine, but the whole thing did seem really abrupt.Revolving Door

  • Jenny Barish is leaving Stitcher, where she holds the role of Director of Business Development, to join At Will Media, where she’ll be the Senior Director of Business Development and Strategy.
  • The Podcast Exchange, the Canadian podcast advertising firm, announced a new president earlier this week: Lina Kim, formerly Managing Director at Havas Media Group.

Got a new job? Tell me — would love to Let The People Know.