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Spotify elevates Bill Simmons while Gimlet cofounder departs

Bill Simmons
Bill Simmons, the founder of the Ringer sports and culture website and podcast network, is assuming the title of global head of sports content and managing director for the Ringer.
(Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Spotify Technology SA is expanding the responsibilities of some of its biggest podcast leaders, a sign that the audio-streaming company is sticking to its plan of becoming a leader in the area despite investor skepticism.

The changes among podcast executives mostly involve promotions. The personnel moves were confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.

Spotify wants to take over the streaming world. Joe Rogan is just a means to that end.

One of the most prominent moves is Bill Simmons, the founder of the Ringer sports and culture website and podcast network, is assuming the title of global head of sports content and managing director for the Ringer. He will continue to oversee the Ringer, which Spotify Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek has said could become the next ESPN.

Julie McNamara, who is currently in charge of US studios and video, will now manage Spotify’s three acquired studios — the Ringer, Gimlet Media and Parcast — and oversee original content across Spotify. She’ll also be in charge of some high-profile partnerships, such as Spotify’s agreements with DC Comics and with Archewell Audio, which was founded by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

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Parcast founder Max Cutler is being named the head of talk creator content and partnerships. In that role, he will oversee licensed content and new content initiatives while working with podcast creators.

Spotify will also soon name a global markets leader for talk content, who will manage global releases and see that hit podcasts in one place can be replicated elsewhere.

Cutler and McNamara will report to Dawn Ostroff, head of Spotify’s content and advertising business, while Simmons will report to McNamara.

As part of the shuffle, and previously reported, Courtney Holt, one of the company’s original podcast strategy architects, is leaving his role to take on a yearlong advisory position. Gimlet cofounder Matt Lieber, who oversaw the studios, is also leaving the company this summer. He’ll continue as an advisor as well.

Taken together, the promotions suggest a renewed focus on Spotify’s stated long-term podcast goals, which include bringing 50 million creators to the platform and establishing itself as a leader for audio content. Investors aren’t convinced by the plans, however: Spotify’s stock has remained at historic lows as shareholders zero in on the company’s lack of tangible returns from its podcast investments, which have totaled more than $1 billion.

Flashy announcements such as shows with Kim Kardashian and Archewell Audio have yet to produce content and the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, isn’t renewing its exclusive partnership.

There has been success as well: The platform’s latest major release, “Batman Unburied,” unseated its licensed “Joe Rogan Experience” as the top show on the platform abroad and in the US.

Ek said he bought $50 million of Spotify stock last week to signal his confidence in the company’s strategy. He said on Twitter he’s always “been vocal about my belief in Spotify and what we are building” so he’s “putting that belief into action.”

Spotify shares have lost close to 60% of their value so far in 2022. That’s more than double the decline of the Russell 1000 Growth Index.


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