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Insider December 15, 2022 — This was not a great year for M&A

Plus, Spielberg options Maddow’s hit podcast.

If there is any way I am going to get my parents to listen to a podcast, Ultra may be the one to make it happen. WWII history? Familiar MSNBC host? Simply perfect for boomers.

Today, Maddow’s big Hollywood deal, Spotify’s sinking live app, and the industry’s year of sparse M&A.

There’s not much left on Spotify Live

Spotify canceled a slew of live shows, according to a Bloomberg report this week. The company had commissioned live shows from already-popular podcasters like Deuxmoi, Who? Weekly hosts Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger, and Doughboys hosts Mike Mitchell and Nick Wiger. Those shows (and a few others) have been axed, leaving only The Fantasy Footballers and The Ringer MMA Show on the schedule.

And the schedule… is light. There are only 16 events (or “rooms”) scheduled over the next two weeks. Spotify’s live shows are in a separate Spotify Live app, which is odd considering the platform has managed to consolidate its other verticals in the main app. Perhaps that in itself was a barrier to widespread adoption, or maybe live audio doesn’t have much of a shelf life beyond the pandemic. Spotify did not respond to request for comment on what future plans are in store for the app.

Media M&A deals are on the downswing

This year, we have seen a real lack of audio company acquisitions like those that were common over the past several years. But it is not just audio — PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that the number of deals across the media and telecommunications sector fell by 26 percent in the past year.

PwC analysts say we could see more acquisitions next year, but that’s based on the prospect that larger companies will sell off assets that are not core to their business. “Pressure on valuations may force companies to look at whether the sum of its parts is greater than the consolidated value of the group, giving rise to further divestitures of non-core or potentially undervalued assets,” the report says.

For me, what first came to mind was how Audacy is reportedly shopping Cadence13 around to alleviate its financial woes. While Cadence13 is easily one of the most successful podcast studios in the industry, it is not Audacy’s bread and butter. A lot of companies chose to pursue podcasting when the market was hot, but when times are tough, I wonder if those assets and departments will be among the first to go.

Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra has been picked up by Steven Spielberg

Rachel Maddow’s latest podcast may have ended its run last month, but Ultra is poised to get the big screen treatment. According to Deadline, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment has optioned the rights to the show from MSNBC and Maddow’s production company. While there is no plan yet for Spielberg to direct, his longtime collaborator Tony Kushner is reportedly in talks to write the script with Dopesick and Recount screenwriter Danny Strong.

The limited series digs into the history of a World War II-era plot among sitting members of Congress to overthrow the government. The show has been a smash hit, ranking as Podtrac’s second-biggest new show of the year. The series still ranks in the top 10 shows on Apple Podcasts and in the top 50 on Spotify. 

That’s all for today. See you tomorrow.