|Friday Evening News Dump. Bloomberg with a scoop late Friday, as much of the country grew intimate with John King and Steve Kornacki: Apple and Sony Music have apparently held talks about possibly acquiring Wondery.
From the report:Apple and Sony are two of at least four companies that have discussed a deal with Wondery, according to one of the people. Though Spotify Technology SA has been the most aggressive buyer of podcasting companies over the last two years, the Swedish audio giant decided not to bid, said two people with knowledge of the talks. A deal is expected in coming months, but there’s no guarantee that the discussions won’t fall apart.
This comes about a month after another Bloomberg scoop that Wondery had hired financial advisers “to explore strategic options, including a potential sale,” with the company said to be eyeing between $200 million to $400 million for an acquisition.
The specifics of this development shouldn’t be terribly surprising. As I wrote in my initial analysis, Wondery is one of the very few buyable podcast companies operating at reliable scale, and you have to imagine that any media corporation or conglomerate with deep enough wallets would be interested in at least kicking the tires. As such, you should interpret this development (and the existence of this Bloomberg report more generally) as part and parcel of that exploratory process. That Spotify decided against pursuing a deal also shouldn’t be terribly surprising; I’d argue there is far too much overlap with Parcast already in-house.
What might be surprising, at least to some folks, is the presence of Apple among the reportedly interested parties. Here’s how you should think about this: a theoretical acquisition of Wondery by Apple would be less about Apple’s place in the podcast ecosystem and more about Apple’s broader media business, particularly with respect to Apple TV+.
After all, Wondery’s unique value proposition revolves around its distinct strength with the podcast intellectual property pipeline, and it’s safe to say that any media conglomerate with a video streamer — including Apple — could benefit from bringing a focused and cost-efficient IP generator into the fold.
Anyway, keep in mind: the fundamental question with this story isn’t about whether Wondery will get acquired, but whether the company will be bought at the price it wants. A smaller related question is whether potential acquirers put much weight on Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez’s current legal situation. He continues to face corruption charges around the 2015 FIFA scandal, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Speaking of which… From the Los Angeles Times: “Wondery CEO who built a podcasting powerhouse vows to fight federal corruption charges.”
|In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod… Marc Smerling is on the show this week.
If you’ve spent any time at all over the last few years thinking about the sprawling history of crime and politics in Providence, Rhode Island, that’s probably because you’ve listened to the insanely popular Crimetown, which Smerling created with Zac Stuart-Pontier in partnership with Gimlet Media back in 2016. (Or maybe, you know, you’re from there.)
Smerling is also a true crime legend in general, as you might know, with a stacked resume that includes Capturing The Friedmans, Catfish, and of course, The Jinx. (“I killed them all, of course.”) His most recent projects are FX’s Wilderness of Error — which, by the way, I really enjoyed — and its companion podcast, Morally Indefensible. Both those efforts were made through his new production company, Truth Media.
In this interview, we talk about why he feels so drawn to podcasting, how he thinks about the vast popularity of the true crime genre in general, and what it was like to build a true crime podcast at Gimlet Media at a moment when both those things were still pretty young.
You can find Servant of Pod on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or the great assortment of third-party podcast apps that are hooked up to the open publishing ecosystem. Desktop listening is also recommended. Share, leave a review, so on.