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May 20, 2020, 10:39 a.m.
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By securing Joe Rogan’s insanely popular show, Spotify gets closer to complete domination of the podcast space

The terms for the Spotify licensing deal were not disclosed, but I imagine a crap-ton of money was involved in this arrangement.

Spotify has signed The Joe Rogan Experience, which previously wasn’t available on the platform, to a multi-year exclusive licensing deal. Which means that not only has Spotify finally made the last big holdout available on its platform, it’s also eventually going to become the exclusive home to what’s widely believed to be one of the biggest — if not the biggest — podcast in the business. Rogan first dropped the news in an episode of the show released Tuesday, with Spotify posting an official blog post not long after.

To be clear: this is a pure licensing deal, in the sense that Rogan maintains full creative control and ownership over the show. The arrangement is similar to what’s been done with The Joe Budden Podcast, which was originally signed in August 2018, and The Last Podcast on the Left, which was first announced last November and eventually realized as an exclusive in February. Which is to say, it’s not a Ringer-Gimlet-Parcast-Dissect sort of thing, just so we’re all crystal on this.

A few wonky details to note. Firstly, the timeline: The Joe Rogan Experience will start appearing globally on Spotify on September 1, and will only become exclusive to the platform a few months after that. (Exactly when the exclusivity doesn’t appear to be specified.) Secondly, the exclusivity applies to both the audio and video components of the show. In addition to being a massive podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience also drives considerable viewership over YouTube, with the YouTube versions, which are mostly just video recordings of the interview tapings, typically averaging well over a million views each. This twin format nature of the exclusivity ties into recent reports of Spotify dipping its toe back into video, specifically with tests around video podcasts that feature Zane & Health: Unfiltered as among the first guinea pigs.

And finally, I should note that The Joe Rogan Experience is represented by PMM for podcast ad sales. I’m told PMM — which, interestingly enough, also reps Serial, Anna Faris is Unqualified, and Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard — has an agreement with Spotify to continue repping the show.

So, this is a big deal. Like, tectonically big. The actual numbers are hard to pin down, but Rogan has mentioned on the podcast that it reaches about 190 million downloads a month, and the show is, again, widely believed to be one of the biggest revenue generators in the industry. The terms for the Spotify licensing deal were not disclosed, but I imagine a crap-ton of money was involved in this arrangement.

While controversial in many ways, The Joe Rogan Experience has long been a massive touchpoint for the podcast ecosystem. It’s the kind of show that ends up being a gateway podcast for many, many people who otherwise wouldn’t have picked up a podcast. By securing this deal, Spotify has effectively rounded out what has turned out to be a near-comprehensive invasion of the podcast space — it’s genuinely hard to see how Apple, the ecosystem’s incumbent facilitator and rival for podcast dominance by default, can match up against this… or anyone else, for that matter.

Shortly after the news dropped, the chief executive of a major podcast company texted me, “Game, set, match.” It’s hard to really argue against the sentiment at this point, frankly.

Joe Rogan Experience image by Louis Johnson used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     May 20, 2020, 10:39 a.m.
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