After inking a $25 million exclusive podcasting deal with Spotify last year, Meghan and Harry have only published one 35-minute episode.
And you thought keeping musicians on schedule was hard. Now, Spotify is finding out that managing podcast personalities can be just as tricky. Earlier this week, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry signaled that they were re-entering the studio to resume making podcasts, after publishing just one brief episode in the past 7 months.
The pair released their first episode in December of last year shortly after signing their lucrative $25 million Spotify exclusive deal. The episode was just 35 minutes long. Since that point, it’s been radio silence — or more accurately, podcast silence — a situation that could trigger breach of contract issues if newer episodes don’t appear soon.
Comically, one report calculated that the royal duo is making roughly $673,000 per minute recorded. That certainly beats Spotify’s artist royalty rate of one-third of a penny per stream.
It likely also beats Joe Rogan’s per-minute rate: after signing a $100 million exclusive podcasting contract with Spotify last year, Rogan has been cranking out content. Indeed, The Joe Rogan Experience often features three or more podcasts a week, with each episode typically surpassing two hours in length. Pound-for-pound, Rogan has easily produced a higher return on investment for Spotify, despite the higher price tag.
But Meghan and Harry have now signaled that they are getting serious. The duo is now hiring podcast producer Rebecca Sananes to helm the duo’s Archewell Audio imprint. Sananes brings some serious production experience to the table, though she’s reportedly not slated to start until August according to the Hollywood Reporter. Sananes was previously the lead producer for Vox Media and New York magazine’s Pivot podcast.
Now, the question is whether Meghan and Harry will start delivering on their commitment. That remains to be seen, though the situation highlights how tricky Spotify’s foray into podcasting has been. Because even when podcasters deliver content as agreed, it’s not clear that Spotify is growing its subscriber base or ARPU (average revenue per user).
That is putting a damper on Spotify’s stock price, especially as the broader category plateaus. Earlier this week, a report by analysts at Bernstein questioned whether the recent boom in podcasting is over. According to the analyst, year-over-year growth among the top 10 podcasting publishers last year continued at a breakneck pace, often stretching past 50% for certain months. But that breakneck pace slammed to a halt in February, when the year-over-year growth rate slowed to just 1.7%.
Year-over-year growth has been slipping into negative territory in recent months, which is raising alarm bells at Bernstein. “With all the intense focus on how engagement will hold up for video streaming and video games as the pandemic rolls off, we have found few investors asking that same question about podcasting,” Bernstein noted. “Which ought to matter a lot, given how much focus and capital Spotify is devoting to it.”