New York Times Said to Pay About $25 Million for Serial Productions
Pedestrians pass in front of the New York Times Co. building in New York. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

New York Times Said to Pay About $25 Million for Serial Productions

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New York Times Co. agreed to buy Serial Productions, the company behind the pioneering “Serial” podcast, as it builds up an audio lineup that includes shows like “The Daily” and “1619.”

As part of the Times operations, Serial will continue to commission and edit stories, the newspaper company said in a statement Wednesday. Terms of the deal, which was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, weren’t disclosed. A person familiar with the matter said the Times is paying about $25 million.

The Times also announced a strategic alliance with “This American Life” that will let it continue to collaborate on long-form podcasts. The publishing company is building on the success of its existing “Daily” program, which often tops podcasting listening charts.

The deal signals that podcasts will be a key focus under new Chief Executive Officer Meredith Kopit Levien, who was named to the top job earlier on Wednesday. The 49-year-old will succeed Mark Thompson on Sept. 8.

It’s just the latest high-profile deal for the podcast industry. Spotify Technology SA acquired the Ringer, Gimlet Media and Parcast, and secured exclusive rights to distribute exclusive series such as “The Joe Rogan Experience.” Spotify paid about $200 million upfront for the Ringer alone, though that company produces dozens of podcasts. Serial has only produced a handful.

In March, the Times also acquired Audm, a startup that turns long-form magazine articles into audio.

In an interview, Sam Dolnick, an assistant managing editor who oversees Times audio, said the Serial deal would bring a larger audience to Serial’s podcasts by directing Times’ readers and listeners to the company’s work. It will also give Serial the financial resources to produce more of the in-depth podcasts that it has become known for, he said.

“They were a small company and telling one giant story every year,” Dolnick said. “With extra resources we’re hoping they can tell more stories.”

He said Serial had multiple projects in development and could collaborate with the Times newsroom on stories in the future.

Stephanie Preiss, the Times’ vice president of audio and television, said the company was “really bullish” about the advertising revenue that could come from adding more podcasts to its stable. The Times has been considering creating a subscription podcast business. But Preiss said the Times has “no immediate plans” to put Serial’s programs behind a paywall.

LionTree Advisors advised Serial and “This American Life” on the agreement. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP advised the Times.

Julie Snyder, the executive editor of Serial Productions, said that -- instead of having one show a year -- Serial could produce as many as four annually. She said Serial will also be hiring more people.

“We’re going to have the infrastructure and the journalistic support and deep bench at the Times helping us out,” she said.

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