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Spotify in Early Talks to Buy Sports and Pop-Culture Outlet the Ringer

By Anne Steele and Benjamin Mullin 

Spotify Technology SA is in talks to buy sports and pop-culture outlet the Ringer, according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would let the audiostreaming giant break into broader digital media and bring a network of more than 30 podcasts under its roof.

Discussions are early, these people cautioned, and may not result in a deal.

Spotify, the largest music-streaming platform by subscribers, has been investing heavily in podcasting, a bet it hopes will keep users more engaged, bring over more listeners from radio and increase profit margins. Last year the company spent $400 million to snap up three podcast companies and struck more than two dozen deals for exclusive or original content.

The streaming giant is in the market for more, according to one of the people, and the potential Ringer acquisition is just one of many possible transactions under consideration. Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, has a content partnership with Gimlet Media, a unit of Spotify.

The Ringer, a sports and pop-culture outlet founded by former ESPN commentator Bill Simmons in 2016, has a podcasting network that attracts more than a 100 million downloads a month. In addition to "The Bill Simmons Podcast," the Ringer produces "The Watch," a discussion show about TV and pop-culture; "Binge Mode," which dives deep into pop-culture franchises; and "The Rewatchables," a show that breaks down popular movies.

The companies teamed up in September to launch a new original podcast hosted by Mr. Simmons, "The Hottest Take," which streams exclusively on Spotify.

Though the Ringer's website doesn't draw as many visitors as some of its largest competitors, such as ESPN and Bleacher Report, its podcast network generates significant revenue. The Ringer's podcast revenues exceeded $15 million in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported, and the company is profitable.

The Ringer's podcast network and Mr. Simmons's following would give Spotify a significant entree to the world of sports audio, a realm that has long been dominated by traditional radio stations.

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com and Benjamin Mullin at Benjamin.Mullin@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 17, 2020 18:24 ET (23:24 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.