Amazon Acquires ‘SmartLess’ Podcast for as Much as $80 Million

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Amazon.com Inc. is buying exclusive rights to “SmartLess,” the podcast hosted by actors Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes, hoping the celebrity-interview program can draw more listeners to its subscription-based music service.

Starting on Aug. 1, new episodes of the show will appear on Amazon Music and Wondery+ one week before they are released on other outlets, the companies said Tuesday. Wondery, the podcasting studio Amazon acquired last year, will handle distribution, marketing and advertising sales for the show. The deal also includes the right to team up on future podcasts that the “SmartLess” makers produce.

Amazon didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, which lasts three years, but the total value is between $60 million and $80 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. That would put it slightly ahead of the roughly $20 million a year that rival Spotify Technology SA paid for “Call Her Daddy,” which stars advice guru and comedian Alexandra Cooper.

Podcast listening has exploded in recent years, as shows have become more compelling and consumers get more comfortable listening to the programs in their cars and homes. While the advertising revenue generated by the shows doesn’t yet justify the prices being paid to some of the medium’s new stars, distributors such as Amazon, Spotify and Apple Inc. see the programs as a way of attracting customers to their other services and products.

“SmartLess” has amassed an audience of millions since its debut last July, and is one of the few new podcasts to rank among the most popular shows in the U.S. Lists of the top podcasts are typically dominated by ones that are at least four or five years old.

Celebrity Interviews

On the show, the three actors interview fellow comedians and celebrities. Recent guests have included chef José Andrés, news anchor Jake Tapper and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

After watching its rival Spotify spend more than $1 billion on podcasting companies and shows over the past few years, Amazon has been increasing its investment in the emerging audio medium. In addition to the Wondery acquisition last year, Amazon announced a deal last week for the podcast hosting service ART19.

Amazon on Monday said it would also offer six months free of the Disney+ movie and TV service to new subscribers of its music product. Amazon Music costs $8 a month for customers of the company’s Prime video and delivery service. It is $10 a month for non-Prime customers.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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