Spotify in Early Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer

THR Bill Simmons_0319_FeatureSplash-Simmons - H 2016
Austin Hargrave

THR Bill Simmons_0319_FeatureSplash-Simmons - H 2016

The music streaming giant has already purchased the podcast companies Gimlet and Parcast.

Spotify is in early talks to acquire Bill Simmons' media startup The Ringer, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter

The deal would be the latest in a succession of purchases by Spotify to bulk up its podcasting business. In addition to a website that covers sports and pop culture, The Ringer has a thriving podcast arm with more than 30 shows, including flagship The Bill Simmons Podcast, Binge Mode and The Watch

A Spotify spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for Simmons did not respond to a request for comment. 

Simmons started The Ringer in 2016 after he left ESPN — and his Grantland site — following a dispute with the sports network's then-president John Skipper over comments about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The company has a minority investment from WarnerMedia's HBO, where Simmons also has a first-look deal for unscripted projects like the documentary Andre the Giant

Podcasts have become a big piece of The Ringer's business. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the talks with Spotify, reported that the company had 100 million monthly downloads and podcast ad sales likely to exceed $15 million in 2018. 

The Ringer has been in business with Spotify since September, when the company agreed to make the daily shortform series The Ringer's Hottest Take exclusively for the service. The series joins a Ringer podcast slate that includes The Dave Chang Show, The Road Taken With CT and Baio and Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air.

If a deal comes to pass, The Ringer would mark Spotify's fourth podcast acquisition in the last year, one that would give it a foothold in the sports and pop culture space. The music streaming giant spent nearly $400 million to purchase Gimlet Media, Parcast and Anchor to bolster its podcast business and reorient as an audio-first business. The moves have paid off. Spotify, which has 248 million monthly active users, reported in September that the amount of time people spent streaming podcasts grew by 39 percent during its last quarter. And the number of podcast listeners who converted from free Spotify to the paid Spotify Premium was deemed "almost too good to be true."