Spotify Says Head of Video and Podcasting Operations Is OutBy
Streaming company says videos will focus around music
Former VH1 executive commissioned a dozen series for service
Spotify Ltd. is parting ways with Tom Calderone, the head of original video and podcasts, after the music-streaming company’s initial round of programs failed to catch on with audiences.
The online pioneer confirmed Calderone’s departure in an email Thursday. Spotify will focus its video efforts around Rap Caviar, the service’s most popular playlist, Rock This and other features, a spokesman said.
With the move, Spotify is narrowing its video ambitions. Calderone, the former head of cable network VH1, commissioned a dozen series from producers including Tim Robbins and Russell Simmons. He also oversaw podcasts, an area of growing importance at the world’s largest paid music service. Now the company is making clearer that it wants videos on the service to stay closer to the music industry.
While Spotify has known for some time it wants to offer more programming beyond music, the company has struggled to settle on a strategy.
Before Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube, Hulu LLC or Sony Corp. introduced online TV services, Spotify tried to assemble a bundle of TV channels for a live video service in Europe. The company abandoned those plans after failing to line up all the channels it wanted for the right price, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Spotify also licensed short-form videos from Vice Media Inc., Viacom Inc.’s Comedy Central and Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN in 2015. Then in 2016, the company hired Calderone to oversee an in-house studio. He led Viacom’s VH1 during its heyday and quickly ordered shows including Simmons’s “Traffic Jams,” where musicians composed a song while stuck in traffic and performed the it on reaching their destination.
Despite those efforts, video never been featured prominently within Spotify, a source of frustration for many partners. No series has broken out.
Music industry executives would like Spotify’s video efforts to focus on music. That would bring more attention to their artists and new releases, and not divert royalty-generating listeners to other content. Thanks to Spotify, the music business is growing for the first time in almost two decades and record labels aren’t especially keen to see the company diversify into other forms of entertainment.
And of late, Spotify has tested seeding playlists with music videos and short documentaries, including Rap Caviar.
While Spotify is still formulating a video strategy, its investment in podcasting continues to grow. The company has purchased advertising in popular shows “Reply All” and “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” and plans to announce a new slate of original podcasts soon.
The company is planning to go public later this year or early next, and just reached a new long-term deal with Warner Music Group, the third-largest record label.
With more than 60 million paying subscribers for the music service, Spotify has commissioned non-music content to increase the amount of time users spend with the app and keep them from leaving to watch video on YouTube or Facebook. Non-music programming also benefits the company by reducing the share of sales it must hand over to music rights holders.