The New York Times Company officially announced that it is acquiring Serial Productions, the podcast company behind the breakout hit “Serial.”
As part of the Times, Serial Productions will independently commission and edit its own stories, which “will now be amplified by the Times,” the company said.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The New York Times paid about $25 million in cash for Serial, according to a source familiar with the deal.
In addition, the Times said it had entered into an “ongoing creative and strategic alliance” with “This American Life,” the weekly public radio program founded by host and executive producer Ira Glass. That will let “This American Life” continue to collaborate on long-form audio stories with Serial Productions as well as partner with the Times on marketing and ad sales. “Serial” first launched in 2014 as a spinoff of “This American Life.”
The acquisition of Serial will augment the publisher and media company’s existing podcast business, which includes flagship “The Daily,” hosted by Michael Barbaro. “This American Life,” produced in collaboration with WBEZ Chicago and distributed by PRX (Public Radio Exchange), will remain independent.
“We’ve seen the power that audio can have in building deeper connections with our audience and we’re committed to bringing listeners the best audio journalism in the world,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, COO of the New York Times Company. She was just named the company’s CEO, taking over the role in September from Mark Thompson.
Serial Productions is led by Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig and Neil Drumming. Each episode of “Serial’s” first season — an investigation into the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore — was downloaded 20 million times on average. Serial’s popular “S-Town,” released in 2017, prompted a lawsuit from the subject’s estate that was settled earlier this year.
The Serial team, which formed their company in 2017, plans to produce shows and series under both The Times and Serial Productions banner. The first is “Nice White Parents,” with reporter Chana Joffe-Walt examining the role white families play in shaping public education, which will premiere Thursday, July 30.
“We’re incredibly proud of ‘Serial’ and wanted to find a home where we felt shared values, one where we would be supported and resourced to tell more stories, of the highest quality,” Snyder, executive editor of Serial Productions, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be joining The Times, where they have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing the possibilities of audio and long-form narrative journalism.”
Glass, in a statement provided by the Times, said whenever he’s asked to recommend a podcast, “the first one I mention is ‘The Daily.'”
“It’s so impressive, how the Times jumped into audio journalism, and made a show that uses the medium so well,” Glass said, adding that “I can’t imagine a better partner for the journalism we and ‘Serial’ do than the Times, and look forward to continuing to invent this still-young world of podcasting with them at our side.”
In March, the Times paid $8.6 million for Audm, a subscription-based audio app that provides long-form journalism read aloud by audio-book narrators. The Times’ audio department is headed by executive producer Lisa Tobin.
For Serial Productions and “This American Life,” LionTree Advisors is financial adviser, former NBCUniversal exec Lauren Zalaznick is a strategic advisor, and Lowenstein Sandler is legal adviser. For the Times Company, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Davis Wright Tremaine is legal adviser.
Pictured above (l. to r.): Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig, Ira Glass