Amazon is in negotiations to buy Wondery, the four-year-old independent podcast producer and network, in a deal worth over $300 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Hernan Lopez, formerly CEO of 21st Century Fox’s Fox International Channels, founded Wondery in 2016 with the mission of producing high-quality scripted and unscripted podcast entertainment.
Lopez declined to comment on the report. An Amazon rep also declined to comment, saying “we don’t comment on speculation.”
Apple and Sony Music Entertainment, which has been funding a steadily growing slate of original podcasts, also had expressed interest in bidding for Wondery, Bloomberg reported. Back in June, Lopez told Variety that Wondery had about 20 million monthly unique listeners.
Wondery to date has raised about $15 million to date. The company’s investors include Lerer Hippeau, Greycroft, BDMI, Advancit Capital, Water Tower Ventures, Powerhouse Ventures and Waverley Capital, the VC firm formed by Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Luminari Capital’s Daniel Leff.
Amazon, for its part, recently stepped up efforts to exploit the podcast boom by adding several million episodes of free podcasts to Amazon Music in September. The company also announced a slate of original podcasts being produced exclusively for Amazon Music, including shows from DJ Khaled, Becky G, Will Smith and Dan Patrick. The free podcasts are available on all tiers of Amazon Music for no additional cost and have first launched for customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan.
In addition, Amazon-owned Audible recently added about 100,000 podcast shows, encompassing 5 million episodes, available on its platform free to both members and non-members. Audible, too, has expanded its original audio-entertainment investments, with series from Keegan-Michael Key, Kevin Hart, Blake Griffin, Jamie Lee Curtis and Common.
L.A.-based Wondery is on pace to pull in more than $40 million revenue in 2020, about 75% of which is from ads, according to the Journal report. The rest represents TV licensing revenue and subscription fees from third-party services and the Wondery Plus subscription service, which bowed in June.
Wondery’s original shows include “Joe Exotic: Tiger King,” “Dr. Death,” “Bad Batch,” “The Shrink Next Door,” “Business Wars,” “American History Tellers,” “Tides of History,” “The Daily Smile” and “Imagined Life.”
A key component of Wondery’s business is adapting its most popular originals for TV. Universal Content Productions, for example, is developing a “Joe Exotic” show based on the Wondery podcast with Kate McKinnon set to star and executive produce and also is producing a series adaptation of Wondery’s “Dr. Death” for NBCUniversal’s Peacock, with Jamie Dornan, Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin set to star.