Bill Simmons, founder of podcast network The Ringer and Spotify’s head of podcast innovation and monetisation, slammed Meghan Markle and Prince Harry as “f*cking grifters” on his podcast last Friday, after the audio giant ended its multi-year exclusive content deal with the pair’s audio-first production company Archwell Audio.
“I wish I had been involved in the ‘Meghan and Harry leave Spotify’ negotiation,” Simmons said. ‘The F*cking Grifters.’ That’s the podcast we should have launched with them… I have got to get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories … F*ck them. The grifters.”
The exclusive contract was first signed nearly three years ago in December 2020 with plans to “produce and host podcasts that build community through shared experiences and values” in 2021. Since then, Archwell Audio has delivered a holiday special in 2020 with Gimlet Studios and the Spotify-exclusive podcast Archetypes with Meghan Markle, which made its debut in August 2022.
According to Spotify’s Q3 2022 report, the Archetypes podcast quickly became a hit, reaching #1 in the podcast charts in more than six countries. There have been no further details from Spotify or Archwell on the reasons why the deal has ended although a Spotify spokesperson told PodPod that they have “mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together”.
Spotify has been cutting back on podcast investments and loosening its exclusivity on some of its Gimlet and Parcast podcasts in order to bounce back after facing an operating loss of €224 million (£198m) in Q4 last year.
Spotify also reduced its workforce by 6% in January this year and most recently reported in its Q1 2023 report that it has successfully reduced its operating loss by 32%. The audio giant has since cut a further 2% of its workforce at the start of June as part of the next phase of its podcast strategy which involves focusing on creating more partnerships with podcasters and maximising podcast consumption among Spotify’s users.
The contract between Archwell Audio and Spotify was signed when Dawn Ostroff was acting as chief content and advertising business officer and was overseeing the partnership at the time. Ostroff has since announced her departure from Spotify in January which the company stated was “part of a broader reorganisation”.
Other Spotify exclusive contracts with podcast creators that ended recently include the Obamas’ Higher Ground production and media company, which ended its deal last year and signed with Audible in order to make its content more accessible to audiences on other platforms.