Amazon Music has signed an exclusive deal with NPR to distribute Guy Raz’s How I Built This podcast a week before any other platform starting in March. The show will be produced twice weekly, an increase from its once-a-week cadence, and available early through Amazon Music and Wondery Plus. After that one-week window, the episodes will be released widely both on podcast platforms and radio stations. Wondery will also receive the exclusive ad sales rights and YouTube distribution rights, while NPR will maintain the radio distribution rights and underwriting.
In an internal memo to NPR staff obtained by The Verge, Anya Grundmann, SVP of programming, and John Lansing, CEO and president, write that the deal is the “first of its kind for NPR” and “takes advantage of a dynamic moment in the podcast space, helping us reach new digital audiences through Amazon’s platforms and marketing efforts, and creating guaranteed revenue to further our mission.” They write that ad space will be carved out for NPR’s promotional spots and that the deal “provides guaranteed funding for three years.” (This is presumably the length of the deal.)
“We are grateful to Guy and the phenomenal team behind HIBT for the chance to explore this new business opportunity that will expand the reach and visibility of a key show and also allow us to continue to invest in and support our mission,” they write.
This deal mimics others from Amazon. It signed similar weeklong exclusivity arrangements with SmartLess and My Favorite Murder. This is in contrast to Spotify’s strategy to sign wholly exclusive deals like the ones we’ve seen with Call Her Daddy and The Joe Rogan Experience. Although Amazon Music seemingly wants to recruit new subscribers to its platform, the ad sales arrangement is just as critical, particularly given the purchase of Art19, a podcast hosting and monetization service.
Amazon likely sees the benefit in expanding shows’ reach to sell more ads, an area where the company is increasingly making money. (During an earnings call this month, the company broke advertising into a line of its own and said it made $31 billion last year.) It’s unclear how much revenue Amazon potentially sees as a possibility for podcasts, but having big shows that command more money under its purview will help it get more advertisers interested in the space and purchasing inventory.