Why Spotify’s big bet on Meghan fell flat
When Spotify signed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with an exclusive deal reportedly worth about $20m (£15.6m) in 2020, the royal couple were taking their first steps into the commercial world and podcasts were positively booming.
It’s amazing how times have changed.
In recent years, Prince Harry and Meghan’s brand has waned in some eyes, and Spotify is shifting away from expensive original content and big celebrity signings that weighed on its bottom line.
Meghan’s podcast became one of the most high-profile casualties this week when Spotify and Archewell Audio announced they were parting ways.
In the past year, Spotify’s deal with Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company came to an end.
In the past few years, Spotify has let go hundreds of employees, mainly in the podcasting division, where it spent more than $400 million acquiring a hotchpotch of podcasting companies.
Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, admitted the company had made some mistakes during its $1bn spending spree that followed its 2019 push to become the industry’s leading player.
I agree with what you’re saying about overpaying and overinvesting.
In the future, we will be very diligent in how we invest in content deals,” he said. He added that he wouldn’t renew content deals that did not perform well.
On the other hand, we will assess the relative value of the performing ones on a case-by-case basis.”
There is no doubt that Spotify still has the stomach for some expensive partnerships. It refused to cut ties with controversial star Joe Rogan in 2020, who reportedly received $200 million for giving the streamer exclusive listening rights.
There are several multi-hour episodes of Rogan’s show each week, and the show draws an average audience of 11 million viewers.
The Archetypes podcast, on the other hand, was only able to produce 12 episodes last year.
Spotify and the Sussexes were “proud” of the material they created together, according to the joint statement.
There was a string of accolades to prove it.
In six markets, including the US and UK, Archetypes’ debut album topped Spotify’s charts last year. Meghan interviewed fellow celebrities including Serena Williams, Mariah Carey, and Mindy Kaling for the show, which won a People’s Choice Award.
However, crisis communications guru Mark Borkowski says Spotify may not have found the show compelling enough.
According to him, “it’s always about the content… clearly there isn’t enough of an audience.” People won’t pay if you can’t deliver.