Categories: Technology
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2023-12-05 7:12 AM

Spotify’s Podcast Pivot: Flagship Show Heavyweight Axed as Streaming Giant Shifts to Chat Show Dominance

  • Heavyweight Cancellation: Spotify cancels Gimlet's "Heavyweight" amidst a broader shift in podcasting strategy, emphasizing personality-driven chat shows.
  • Gimlet's Downfall: Acquired for $230 million, Gimlet faces challenges, including staff cuts and losing "Reply All" over discrimination accusations.
  • Podcasting Transformation: Spotify's move signals a departure from prestigious narrative podcasts, opting for popular personality-driven shows like "Joe Rogan Experience."
By Lethabo Ntsoane

In a significant move, Spotify has decided to pull the plug on “Heavyweight,” one of Gimlet’s flagship shows, as part of a broader shift in its podcasting strategy. The cancellation comes amid Spotify’s recent layoff of 17 percent of its staff and a departure from the prestigious, narrative podcasts that characterized its initial foray into the podcasting landscape.

The Rise and Fall of Gimlet

In 2019, Spotify made a substantial investment, acquiring Gimlet for $230 million, aiming to bolster its podcasting portfolio with an independent podcast operation. However, Gimlet faced challenges, failing to produce the hit shows that Spotify was eagerly anticipating. Complicating matters, Gimlet lost its biggest hit, “Reply All,” after co-host PJ Vogt and producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni were accused of fostering a discriminatory environment.

Over the subsequent year, Gimlet’s programming and staff were drastically reduced, and the studio was folded into Spotify Originals. This marked a departure from the studio’s initial promise, and Spotify started moving towards personality-driven chat shows, exemplified by the likes of “Joe Rogan Experience” and “Call Her Daddy.”

Heavyweight’s Demise and the Podcasting Landscape

“Heavyweight,” a beloved show among industry insiders, is set to be cancelled after the conclusion of its current season. The team responsible for the show will face layoffs, adding to the 17 percent reduction in Spotify’s workforce. This move raises questions about the sustainability of the initial podcasting strategy that led Spotify to acquire Gimlet in the first place.

Spotify spokesperson Rosa Oh commented on the cancellation, stating, “We are extremely proud of the team who has supported these talented storytellers across each of the incredible episodes of Heavyweight.” The statement also indicated Spotify’s commitment to ensuring a smooth transition for the show’s future.

Shifting Strategies and Layoffs

Spotify’s podcasting strategy has undergone a significant transformation, moving away from its original vision of cultivating prestigious narrative podcasts. The company’s recent layoff of 17 percent of its staff further underscores this shift in direction. The focus is now on personality-driven chat shows, which have gained immense popularity, notably with shows like “Joe Rogan Experience” and “Call Her Daddy.”

Stolen Joins the Cancellation List

“Heavyweight” is not the only casualty in this strategic overhaul. Another acclaimed Gimlet show, “Stolen,” which even earned a Pulitzer Prize, is also on the chopping block. Like “Heavyweight,” “Stolen” will conclude its current season before potentially finding a new home on other podcast platforms.

Opportunities Beyond Spotify

Despite the cancellations, there may be a silver lining for both “Heavyweight” and “Stolen.” Post-conclusion of their current seasons, there’s an opportunity for these shows to be shopped elsewhere, allowing them to continue their storytelling journey on different platforms.

As Spotify reevaluates its podcasting strategy and undergoes significant organizational changes, the fate of Gimlet’s remaining shows raises questions about the long-term viability of high-profile podcast acquisitions and the evolving preferences of the podcasting audience.

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Lethabo Ntsoane

Lethabo Ntsoane holds a Bachelors Degree in Accounting from the University of South Africa. He is a Financial Product commentator at Rateweb. He is an expect financial product analyst with years of experience in reviewing products and offering commentary. Lethabo majors in financial news, reviews and financial tips. He can be contacted: Email: lethabo@rateweb.co.za Twitter: @NtsoaneLethabo