Spotify ends multi-million podcast deal with Harry and Meghan

Innovation

Spotify has ended its podcast deal with Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle, the two sides announced Thursday, ending the multi-million-dollar partnership after it produced only one season of Markle’s Archetypes podcast and as Spotify restructures its podcast division, which resulted in layoffs at the company earlier this month.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry speak at the 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala on December 6, 2022, in New York City. GETTY IMAGES FOR 2022 ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS RIPPLE OF HOPE GALA
Key Takeaways
  • Spotify and Archewell Audio, Harry and Markle’s audio production company, said in a statement the two sides had “mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together.”
  • Harry and Markle, known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, originally signed with Spotify in December 2020, in a deal that Spotify said would “elevate underrepresented voices.”
  • The podcasting deal resulted in only one series, Markle’s podcast, Archetypes, which ran for one season starting in August 2022, featuring interviews with such guests as Serena Williams, Mariah Carey, Mindy Kaling, Paris Hilton and Trevor Noah.
  • Archetypes became the top podcast on Spotify following its debut and won a People’s Choice Award in December, but sources cited by Variety said Spotify expected more content from the podcast deal.
  • Other sources cited by Variety said Harry and Markle wanted to “find a new home” for their audio content, and a representative for Markle’s talent agency, WME, told the Wall Street Journal the Duchess of Sussex “is continuing to develop more content for the Archetypes audience on another platform.”
Big number

Approximately $US20 million. 

That’s how much Archewell Audio’s podcasting deal with Spotify was worth, according to the Journal. The exact figure is unclear, with industry sources cited by Forbes previously valuing it at closer to $US15 million to $US18 million, and other reports putting it as high as $US25 million.

The Sussexes did not meet the “productivity benchmarks” needed to get the full payout from the deal by the time it ended, according to sources cited by the Journal.

Tangent

Spotify ended another high-profile podcasting deal with former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground media company in April 2022.

Sources cited by Variety said at the time that Spotify was the one to decline to renew the agreement, and the Obamas reportedly wanted its content to not be exclusive to the platform. Higher Ground has since signed a new deal with Audible.

Key background

The Sussexes stepped down as working members of the royal family in early 2020 following clashes with the Palace and ongoing concerns about their privacy, relocating to California.

The Spotify deal was part of the couple’s broader pivot to media content in their post-royals life, which has also included a $100 million contract with Netflix and the publication of Harry’s controversial memoir, Spare.

The end of Archewell’s Spotify deal comes as the podcasting industry faces a moment of reckoning after a surge of interest, with Chartr data released in February finding the number of new podcasts dropped by 80% over the past year compared with the two years before.

The number of U.S. podcast listeners only increased by 5% in 2022, according to Insider Intelligence.

Spotify’s recent round of layoffs came after the audio company previously canceled ten of its original podcasts in October 2022 and laid off a reported 38 podcast employees that month.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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