The two companies have struck a multiyear first-look film and TV deal that will allow them to mine more than 250 global original audio shows for Hollywood development. It’s a move that underscores the entertainment industry’s hunger for new IP and Spotify’s growing ambition to become a major supplier of that programming.
Together, the companies will hire an executive to spearhead development and work closely with Chernin Entertainment president Jenno Topping and her team, Peter Chernin tells THR in an interview. The will each provide financial support to the endeavor and will share in the ownership of the film and TV projects that result, he added while declining to share specifics of the deal.
The pact marks a reunion of sorts for Chernin and Spotify chief content and advertising business officer Dawn Ostroff, who worked together years ago at Fox. Chernin, whose production company is behind such films as Ford v Ferrari and Hidden Figures and such TV shows as New Girl and See, says he’s been on the hunt for new sources of IP that would be ripe for adaptation. “If you’re an independent producer, the single most important thing in the world is IP,” he says, explaining that he was attracted to Spotify’s large library of original podcasts, many of which it has assembled via the acquisitions of audio-first studios Gimlet Media, Parcast and The Ringer. “I started thinking, ‘Wait a second. This is arguably the biggest collection — and certainly the fastest-growing collection — of IP in the universe today.”
Ostroff, in a statement, adds, “As we continue to expand our content ambitions, we are thrilled to collaborate with Peter Chernin, who, along with his exceptional team, are the perfect partners to help us share these stories with audiences across mediums and around the world. Together, we can usher in a new era for podcasts as source material.”
Spotify, the music streaming giant with 299 million monthly active users around the world, has moved aggressively into the podcast space over the last two years under the guidance of Ostroff, a veteran television executive, and her team, which includes former Lifetime executive Liz Gateley. In addition to spending more than $500 million to scoop up some of the buzziest independent podcast producers, it has also assembled a large roster of creative partners. In addition to its multiyear deal with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Audio, it has also enticed Paul Feig, Jordan Peele and Mark Wahlberg to make shows for its platform.
Meanwhile, podcasts have become a popular source of IP for Hollywood as it races to supply the rash of new streaming outlets with stories that can draw viewers. Gimlet was part of the early wave of podcast-to-TV deals with an Amazon adaptation of scripted thriller Homecoming. TV versions of Gimlet’s The Two Princes and The Horror of Dolores Roach are also in the works. Other podcasts that have been turned into shows include Dirty John and Limetown.
Prior to inking their first-looking deal, Spotify and Chernin began working together to adapt true crime podcast The Clearing, which was released in 2019 from Pineapple Street Studios and Gimlet.
As they look to future projects, Chernin says they will be evaluating podcasts for stories and characters that can translate to screens big and small. “Arguably, some of the most innovative storytelling going on right now is going on in the podcasting space,” he says. “You have a bunch of extremely creative writers, producers, directors who have thought about different ways to tell stories.” He adds that through the deal, Chernin Entertainment also could funnel projects to Spotify, where they could be turned into podcasts.