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Amazon gets into the podcast business, buys ‘Wondery’

Wendy Lee
Los Angeles Times

Amazon Music will acquire podcast company Wondery, which has produced programs including “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door.”

“Amazon Music launched podcasts in September 2020, and together with Wondery, we hope to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts by bringing creators, hosts, and immersive experiences to even more listeners across the globe, just as we do with music,” Amazon Music said in a statement. “This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve.”

In this Feb. 14, 2019 file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York.

Amazon Music said the deal has not yet closed. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition announcement comes as large radio and music streaming companies are expanding their reach into podcasts. Starting last year, Spotify began investing heavily in the podcast space, buying up companies including Gimlet Media and Parcast.

This year, Spotify bought the Ringer, as well as podcast ad platform Megaphone. There are also podcasts exclusively on Spotify including “The Michelle Obama Podcast.”

Wondery has taken a different approach, with many of its podcasts available on multiple platforms. Amazon Music, a division of the e-commerce giant, said it plans to keep it that way.

“When the deal closes, nothing will change for listeners, and they’ll continue to be able to access Wondery podcasts through a variety of providers,” Amazon Music said.

Before Amazon’s announcement, Wondery remained one of the few remaining large independent podcast publishers. As the industry consolidated, speculation intensified that it would be acquired by a larger company.

The company, founded in 2016, has produced more than 50 podcasts with 16 shows in TV development. Wondery has worked with the L.A. Times on its true crime tale “Dirty John” and produced and marketed two other Times podcasts, “Man in the Window” and “Detective Trapp.”

Earlier this year, Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez faced questions about whether he should continue to lead the company after he was among two former Fox TV executives charged with money laundering and wire fraud over alleged bribes involving broadcasting rights to the World Cup and other high-profile soccer tournaments. Lopez has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“I’m completely confident that when I have the chance to be before a jury, if it ever gets to trial, I’ll be vindicated,” Lopez said in an interview with The Times earlier this year.

At the time, he said he had no plans to step down.