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Insider: January 7, 2021 — Spotify-Chernin hire adaptation point person, Audible’s False Advertising, Revolving Door

Filling the Pipeline. Let’s kick things off with some personnel talk. From Deadline: “Spotify and Chernin Entertainment have appointed ex-CAA agent Vanessa Silverton-Peel to lead its hunt for podcasts to adapt for TV and film.”

Here’s the context: last September, Spotify announced a multi-year first-look deal with Chernin, the global media production company, setting the latter up to have first dibs on adapting audio shows in the former’s portfolio into film and television projects. The way I see it, the deal represents a move to formalize and streamline the broader podcast-to-Hollywood adaptation trend within Spotify. The appointment of Silverton-Peel as the point person to suss out which Spotify assets to bring to Chernin looks like further reflection of that push towards streamlining.

According to Deadline, Silverton-Peel will be joining Spotify in this arrangement. Her time at CAA involves representing podcast shops like Gimlet, Pineapple Street, and WNYC Studios.

To call back what I find so interesting about this thread: Spotify’s deal with Chernin, and the hiring of Silverton-Peel, covers the audio streaming platform’s programming portfolio both within the United States and globally. So, in addition to the expected pushes to build packages around Reply All episodes and Parcast shows and whatever, I’m curious to see the extent to which we’ll see efforts to build film and television packages around Spotify’s programming in countries like Indonesia and Germany.

News of Silverton-Peel’s hire comes only a few weeks after another Spotify personnel-related headline: Liz Gateley stepping back as Spotify’s head of creative development around original podcast content, less than two years after she first took up the role. That shift was first reported by Bloomberg.

A Free Thing, Now Even More Free. Well, that’s awkward:

This ad apparently popped up to include a bunch of other already freely available third-party podcasts as well. The Verge wrote up this bizarre occurrence yesterday, noting that the pricing ad disappeared shortly after they reached out to Amazon for comment. Amazon apparently hasn’t responded to The Verge at this writing, but someone close to the matter at Audible told me that this was due to a “technical error” in one of their promotions. I’m also told that the promotion will not go live again “until the bug has been solved.”Technical error or not, I think this incident — and the “Limited Time Deal” image that embodies this erroneous promotion — efficiently captures what I find so befuddling and annoying about Amazon’s recent brouhaha-laden push back into podcasting. It’s obviously symbolic as to how there’s been little preparation or forethought as to how this whole podcast distribution thing is supposed to work across Amazon’s various audio platforms, if the prior lack of clarity around the distinction between podcasts on Amazon Music versus Audible hadn’t already made that apparent.

Plus, I wonder if images like this could be identified as further fuel for regulatory scrutiny, considering how it feeds into broader anxieties about Amazon’s behaviors around market manipulation.

A Free Thing, Now Even More Free. Well, that’s awkward:

This ad apparently popped up to include a bunch of other already freely available third-party podcasts as well. The Verge wrote up this bizarre occurrence yesterday, noting that the pricing ad disappeared shortly after they reached out to Amazon for comment. Amazon apparently hasn’t responded to The Verge at this writing, but someone close to the matter at Audible told me that this was due to a “technical error” in one of their promotions. I’m also told that the promotion will not go live again “until the bug has been solved.”Technical error or not, I think this incident — and the “Limited Time Deal” image that embodies this erroneous promotion — efficiently captures what I find so befuddling and annoying about Amazon’s recent brouhaha-laden push back into podcasting. It’s obviously symbolic as to how there’s been little preparation or forethought as to how this whole podcast distribution thing is supposed to work across Amazon’s various audio platforms, if the prior lack of clarity around the distinction between podcasts on Amazon Music versus Audible hadn’t already made that apparent.

Plus, I wonder if images like this could be identified as further fuel for regulatory scrutiny, considering how it feeds into broader anxieties about Amazon’s behaviors around market manipulation.

A Free Thing, Now Even More Free. Well, that’s awkward:

This ad apparently popped up to include a bunch of other already freely available third-party podcasts as well. The Verge wrote up this bizarre occurrence yesterday, noting that the pricing ad disappeared shortly after they reached out to Amazon for comment. Amazon apparently hasn’t responded to The Verge at this writing, but someone close to the matter at Audible told me that this was due to a “technical error” in one of their promotions. I’m also told that the promotion will not go live again “until the bug has been solved.”Technical error or not, I think this incident — and the “Limited Time Deal” image that embodies this erroneous promotion — efficiently captures what I find so befuddling and annoying about Amazon’s recent brouhaha-laden push back into podcasting. It’s obviously symbolic as to how there’s been little preparation or forethought as to how this whole podcast distribution thing is supposed to work across Amazon’s various audio platforms, if the prior lack of clarity around the distinction between podcasts on Amazon Music versus Audible hadn’t already made that apparent.

Plus, I wonder if images like this could be identified as further fuel for regulatory scrutiny, considering how it feeds into broader anxieties about Amazon’s behaviors around market manipulation.

Speaking of Amazon… I thought this chunk from Rolling Stone’s recent analysis on Amazon’s acquisition of Wondery, approaching the event from the music ecosystem’s perspective, was pretty interesting. A fairly long quote:

For the music industry, perhaps the most damning aspect of Amazon Music’s $300 million-plus buyout of Wondery is a consideration on what else it could have spent the money on. Wondery ultimately has one standout podcast IP hit (Dirty John, which became a big TV series). Taylor Swift has many more hits than that — and the masters of her first six albums recently sold for $300 million to Shamrock Capital. Likewise, Bob Dylan’s entire song catalog sold at the end of last year for somewhere upwards of $300 million to Universal Music Group.

Why wasn’t Amazon Music interested in these purchases? Indeed, why was it so uninterested that it didn’t even bother joining the bidding table?

Granted, the Taylor Swift option would have invited a major PR headache into Jeff Bezos’s life. But, this fact aside, it shows that a sum of $300 million could easily have snaffled Amazon the rights to an evergreen, blockbuster artist’s catalog — which Amazon could then make “only available on Amazon Music.” This is precisely the exclusivity strategy Amazon follows for its Prime Video service: licensing, acquiring, and building movies and TV shows that you can’t find anywhere else. Indeed, in the TV streaming space right now, the really big bucks are being spent on locking down perpetually popular, re-watchable catalog shows — be that Friends, The Office, Seinfeld or The Big Bang Theory — as platform exclusives.

In other words, why is Amazon Music expanding into a new competency when the platform hasn’t even tightened its game around what should be its core competency? One way I’m reading this: it’s part of the broader consequences of Spotify’s podcasting gambit, which creates an environment where its competitors feel compelled to take steps into new territories that they probably weren’t ready to take yet.Revolving Door.

  • Cher Vincent has joined Pushkin Industries as a Senior Producer. She was previously doing contract work with Vox Media on its podcast with Ben & Jerry, Who We Are, and before that, she produced Thirst Aid Kit.

  • NPR has hired Leora Hanser as its new Chief Development Officer. Hanser was previously a fundraising executive for the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

Got a new job? Let me know, would love to Let The People Know.Quote of the Day. “It’s better to buy than to build.” That comes from the ever-reliable Tom Webster, SVP at Edison Research and a staple source on podcasts. He was quoted on Natalie Jarvey’s short analysis piece in The Hollywood Reporter summing up the thinking behind the swathe of podcast acquisitions we’ve been seeing lately.