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Spotify’s Billion-Dollar Bet on Podcasting Has Yet to Pay Off

Joe Rogan, Bill Simmons, and Call Her Daddy haven’t fixed the business.

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Dawn Ostroff rose to the top of the TV industry in the 2000s by developing deliciously addictive shows such as America’s Next Top Model and Gossip Girl. A former local news reporter, she’s credited her success to knowing what young people like. “Being at the forefront of ‘what’s next’ has always driven me,” she told the news site of Florida International University, her alma mater, in 2020. But after more than three decades in TV, Ostroff saw that a generation raised on the internet had forsaken cable for apps like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. She took the job as Spotify’s chief content officer in 2018 to make a new kind of hit.

Spotify Technology SA was just starting to build its podcasting business when Ostroff joined, and it needed to find a splashy way to attract listeners. Although she had no background in podcasting—or music, for that matter—her time in TV taught her how to talk to talent. Over the next four years, Ostroff spent more than $1 billion on the business, licensing shows, buying production studios, and signing exclusive deals with celebrities, including the Obamas, Kim Kardashian, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.