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Vice News Sells Spotify Three Podcast Series (EXCLUSIVE)

Vice Media, in another bid to diversify its revenue mix, struck a deal with Spotify to distribute three podcast series exclusive on the streaming platform.

Vice News will produce the trio of original podcast series, combining long-form narrative, talk, and investigative journalism, covering the 2020 U.S. election and current events worldwide. The deal follows Vice News’ release of podcast “Chapo: Kingpin on Trial” on Spotify in November 2018.

Vice’s upped podcast push is led by global director of audio Kate Osborn, who served as showrunner/producer for the “Chapo” podcast before joining Vice full time in May 2019. “You’re seeing this at every single media brand,” she said. Previously, “Vice had some podcasting and audio experiments here and there. I would say our new direction is more highly produced, audio-first productions.”

The first new podcast coming Spotify under the deal is “Uncommitted: Iowa 2020,” launching Nov. 12. The 12-episode series takes a deep dive into the idiosyncratic process and history behind the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Hosted by Vice News correspondent Antonia Hylton, the show will feature candidate interviews and promises stories examining how critical national issues are playing out in Iowa ahead of next February’s critical primaries.

Vice News is developing a podcast about America’s opioid crisis, slated to debut on Spotify in 2020. The eight-episode narrative series, currently untitled, will track the third wave of the opioid crisis by uncovering the true story of America’s deadliest drug: fentanyl. Hosted by Keegan Hamilton, Vice News senior reporter and co-host of “Chapo: Kingpin on Trial,” the podcast will follow the flow of fentanyl from its production in China to its distribution into the U.S. — and the devastating effect the synthetic drug is having on communities.

Details of the third podcast have yet to be determined, but will center on Vice News’ global political coverage and launch in late 2020.

For Spotify, the deal with Vice News is about rounding out the nonfiction podcast slate, augmenting its other pacts including the company’s production deal with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Grounds Prods. for exclusive shows and its early-2019 acquisition of Gimlet Media.

Overseeing the Vice News deal for Spotify are head of creative development Liz Gateley and Natalie Tulloch, news and documentary lead. “These three podcasts approach everyday politics and societal issues in the dynamic way Vice News has approached cultural storytelling by exposing truths through their inside, boots-on-the-ground access that has defined their voice,” said Gateley.

Osborn, a former producer for NPR, BBC and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, said Vice will turn an international lens on its original podcasts. While remaining rooted in news, the company’s podcast slate could span Vice’s other categories like tech and gaming. “I’m like a journalist who is an audiohead,” said Osborn. “I know this is the most literally clichéd thing I could say, but I’m super-motivated by storytelling and what opportunities we have to do things differently.”

With Vice’s audio programming, Osborn said, “we are not coming at audiences armed with pundits or hosts who over explain and tell you what the news should mean. What we do is bring you there so you can hear and experience what is happening and come to your own conclusions.”

For youth-skewing Vice, the expansion into audio comes as the business remains in flux. Last week, Vice Media announced a deal to acquire Refinery29, a female-focused digital media brand, in a deal comprised of mostly stock. Both companies are looking to increase scale and gain operational efficiencies after a series of staff cutbacks.

Earlier this year, HBO canceled two of Vice News’ flagship programs and EVP of news Josh Tyrangiel exited the company. Both of the shows have new homes: The daily “Vice News Tonight” will move to a programming block on Viceland cable channel, and Showtime picked up a 13-episode run of weekly documentary series “Vice,” set to premiere in spring 2020.

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