It’s the end of the podcast road for Jemele Hill and Spotify, as they have agreed to end their partnership.
Hill, an award-winning journalist, author and cultural commentator, launched her podcast “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered” on Spotify in April 2019. Subsequently, she expanded her deal with Spotify for the Unbothered Network with podcasts created and hosted by Black women, “Sanctified” and “The Black Girl Bravado.”
More from Variety
“Spotify and Jemele Hill have mutually agreed to part ways,” the company and Hill said in a joint statement provided to Variety. “From the debut of the award-winning podcast ‘Jemele Hill Is Unbothered’ to the launch of the Unbothered Network, we are incredibly proud of our partnership and the work we produced together over the past four-plus years.” Spotify added, “We wish Jemele all the best and look forward to seeing and hearing her future creative endeavors.”
Hill owns the intellectual-property rights for “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered” and “Sanctified,” so it’s her decision whether those shows remain on Spotify. However, “Black Girl Bravado” will remain available on Spotify as that is a licensed series.
The end of Hill’s pact with Spotify comes after the audio streamer’s deal with Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, ended this summer — with the couple having delivered just one show under the agreement. Last year, the Obamas’ exclusive deal with Spotify also came to an end; their Higher Ground production company subsequently inked a deal with Audible.
Over the course of more than 240 episodes, “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered” has featured interviews with guests from across entertainment, culture, music and politics, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Don Cheadle, Ava DuVernay, Common, Ice Cube, Spike Lee, Gabrielle Union, Issa Rae, Taraji P. Henson and Soledad O’Brien.
Hill is co-founder of production company Lodge Freeway Media and is a contributing writer at the Atlantic. She had previously spent 12 years at ESPN, where she cohosted an edition of “SportsCenter” and contributed to other shows; Hill departed the network in 2018 a year after she touched off a controversy by calling Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” In “Uphill: A Memoir,” published in October 2022, she “shares the whole story of her work, the women of her family and her complicated relationship with God,” per the book’s description.
Spotify maintains deals with several popular podcasters, including Joe Rogan, Alex Cooper, Louis Theroux, Emma Chamberlain, Dax Shepard, Markiplier and Drew Afualo. In addition, a weekly series from Trevor Noah, former host of “The Daily Show,” is slated to debut later this year.
On Spotify’s Q1 earnings call in April, CEO Daniel Ek told analysts that “we’re going to be very diligent in how we invest in future [podcast] content deals.” He added that podcasts “that aren’t performing, obviously, we won’t renew. And the ones that are performing, we will obviously look at those on a case-by-case basis on the relative value.”
Spotify reorganized its podcasting group in June, laying off 200 staffers and saying the company would focus more on partnerships with “leading podcasters from across the globe.” At the same time, Spotify continues to curate a lineup of originals; upcoming launches include new seasons of “Heavyweight” and “Science Vs”; Alex Cooper’s “Call Her Daddy” Season 4, “Case 63” Season 2 starring Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac; and “The Riddler: Secrets in the Dark” starring Hasan Minhaj.
Spotify claims to have more than 100 million podcast listeners globally and more than 5 million podcast titles available in 170-plus markets. The company was the largest U.S. podcast network based on reach from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023, according to Edison Research.
Best of Variety