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Spotify and The Ringer Want to Create “Flagship Sports Audio Network”

Deal is intended to bring more sports fans into the greater podcast and streaming fold

The Ringer logoSports and pop culture phenomenon The Ringer will be acquired by Spotify as part of an effort to “build the world’s flagship sports audio network,” The Ringer founder Bill Simmons said in a press release Wednesday. 

Spotify already touts itself as “the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service,” and this acquisition will round out the company’s sports and entertainment offerings and present new strategic opportunities, it announced. 

Created in 2016 by ESPN alum Simmons, in four years The Ringer grew from a standalone website to a multimedia company with its own podcast network with more than 30 shows, a video production house and a new publishing imprint. It will be interesting to see how Spotify handles the breadth of these offerings, given its emphasis on audio. 

In the press release, Spotify Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff explained that The Ringer will “drive our [Spotify’s] global sports strategy” through its editorial team led by Simmons. Ostroff said, “The Ringer’s proven track record of creating distinctive cultural content as well as discovering and developing top tier talent will make them a formidable asset for Spotify.”

According to Recode, Spotify plans to hire both Simmons and his 90-person team as part of the deal. (Recode is a part of Vox Media, which hosts The Ringer via Chorus, its CMS.) That move would be consistent with other recent buys, such as last year’s Gimlet Media acquisition, Recode’s Peter Kafka notes.

For his part, Simmons cited the benefits of Spotify’s “power of scale and discovery” as well as the opportunity to bring new audiences to The Ringer. 

[From 2017: Spotify Ramps Up Podcast Offerings]

The deal is expected to be closed this quarter for an undisclosed sum, pending regulatory approval and other conditions.

This isn’t Simmons’ first association with Spotify. “The Bill Simmons Podcast” was among the first the streamer added when it expanded from a music only service in 2017. In return, Simmons promoted the service via his own channels.

It remains to be seen how this acquisition and subsequent sports content initiatives may affect radio, and AM in particular, since one of the remaining programming strongholds of the medium band is sports talk.