The podcast content studio Wondery is now a wholly owned unit in Amazon. The tech giant’s purchase of the studio launched in 2016 by Hernan Lopez was announced in December and it represents the biggest signal to date that Amazon aims to be a serious player in podcasting. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but Wondery had reportedly been seeking $300 million.
Lopez has exited with the deal’s closing. Wondery COO Jen Sargent has been promoted to CEO of the business for Amazon.
In a statement to investors last month Amazon said through its acquisition, Wondery will be able to provide “more high-quality” and “innovative content” to the Amazon Music service. “Through this acquisition, Amazon Music aims to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts by bringing creators, hosts, and immersive experiences to even more listeners across the globe,” said Amazon.
Wondery is the home of such hit podcasts as Dirty John, Dr. Death, Business Wars and The Shrink Next Door, several of which are in development for television. Wondery’s ability to leverage its intellectual property for TV is likely one of the things that attracted Amazon, whose Amazon Prime streaming video service faces a growing list of rivals.
But the Seattle-based company also has shown a growing interest in audio. Amazon Music began featuring podcasts in September with a mix of established and new, original shows produced exclusively for its streaming music service. It also has an array of podcasts from other publishers. Then in October, Amazon-owned Audible followed suit, adding roughly 100,000 podcasts from a similar list of publishers.
Four years after Lopez traded television for podcasting, the sale will allow him to focus on his newly created foundation. “The Foundation will seek to help progress the fight against systemic bias and racism, while also enabling underrepresented individuals to break through these ceilings through grants, training and networking programs,” wrote Lopez in a LinkedIn post in January. He said the Hernan Lopez Family Foundation will not only push companies to hire and promote people of all backgrounds, but also help those who are looking to advance their career with advice, training, and business connections. “While 2020 was a pivotal year in bringing diversity, equity and inclusion to the forefront of conversations in corporate America, there’s still so much work to do to fully stamp out racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination,” he said.
Lopez still faces a legal fight unrelated to Wondery but rather his time as CEO of Fox International Channels. Federal prosecutors charged Lopez and fellow Fox executive Carlos Martinez in March, alleging they paid millions of dollars in bribes to secure rights for the World Cup and other Latin American soccer tournaments for his former employer, 21st Century Fox. The 53-count indictment charges Lopez and Martinez with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses. But Lopez has insisted that he did nothing wrong and will be cleared.