We asked, you answered: Will Spotify renew Joe Rogan’s contract?
Photo: Jon Tyson
Last week, MIDiA polled readers on their predictions for the future of Joe Rogan’s Spotify contract. Signed to Spotify in 2020 for reportedly over $200 million, Rogan helped cement the platform’s audio shift. Rogan’s podcast consistently tops Spotify’s charts and is estimated to garner over 11 million listeners per episode. However, his content continues to spark political controversy, prompting artists Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to temporarily leave the platform. In response to backlash, Spotify formed the Safety Advisory Council and removed many of Rogan’s episodes.
Rogan’s contract is reportedly up at the end of 2023. Several of Spotify’s other exclusive podcasting deals have unravelled, including one with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and another with the Obamas. Alongside layoffs, Spotify recently announced a shift in strategy to focus on independent creators and roll back exclusive content. CEO Daniel Ek even promised that the company will not “overpay or overinvest” in future podcast deals. So, will Spotify renew Rogan’s contract? Let us explore the options.
Absolutely – 33%: Spotify needs Joe Rogan
Spotify’s podcast vertical largely revolves around a handful of top talents: Rogan, Alex Cooper, and more recently, Emma Chamberlain. Rogan’s estimated listener reach and ad revenue has been enough for Spotify to continue hosting him exclusively, despite his controversial content. Rogan re-ignited old controversies in a recent interview with Robert F Kennedy Jr, which touched on Coronavirus conspiracy theories. Despite this backlash (or perhaps because of it), Rogan’s audience is growing Spotify’s podcast userbase, and has helped Spotify establish itself as a leader in the market. In the fragmented, saturated entertainment landscape, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create a “hit” podcast, making Rogan’s even more valuable. Moreover, with other talents exiting their Spotify deals, Spotify could become even more reliant on Rogan. For example, Cooper’s contract is also pending renewal in 2024, and she is starting her own Gen Z entertainment venture.
Spotify could pay Rogan even more to make all of his content exclusive, including podcast videos. Spotify’s new home screen features video content for all its verticals, competing with social video platforms, including YouTube, the top podcast platform. As Rogan still publishes his podcast videos on YouTube, it may be worth Spotify paying him even more for exclusive access.
Not a chance – 8%: Joe Rogan does not need Spotify (and Spotify cannot afford him)
Still, the audience and ad revenue that Rogan brings might not be enough to afford his renewal. Ek has promised to stop “overspending” on podcasts, and Rogan will likely want an even more lucrative deal this time around. Spotify must also consider the cost of renewing other high-profile deals, such as that of Kim Kardashian, who has yet to announce the second season of her reportedly $100 million series. Plus, Spotify could ultimately decide that Rogan’s controversial views are causing too much harm to users’ (and artists’) view of the company.
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For some of the Spotify deals that have ended, the content will likely still be distributed to Spotify — just not exclusively. The Obamas reportedly left in part for the opportunity to release their shows widely. At this point, Spotify’s celebrity exclusives have done their job, as Spotify is now a top podcast platform. Perhaps Spotify no longer needs exclusives.
However, Rogan built a substantial audience on YouTube before he signed with Spotify, and with his new listeners, he can spread his content even further by returning to releasing his content independently or on another platform. Rogan could be one of the podcast creators to seek an exclusive deal elsewhere, and his listeners on Spotify would presumably follow.
Maybe – 58%: Exclusivity is up for debate
The future of Rogan’s contract comes down to exclusivity: can Spotify afford to keep him as an exclusive talent? Exclusivity has been the foundation of Spotify’s podcast vertical, but it is a double-edged sword.
However, Spotify’s approach to exclusivity is becoming more flexible. In contrast to past celebrity deals, Spotify’s new deal with Trevor Noah will create a Spotify original podcast, but it will not be exclusive to the platform. Moreover, while Chamberlain’s audio podcast used to be exclusive to Spotify, her new deal gives the audio a wide release but keeps the videos exclusive to Spotify. Spotify could similarly experiment by making Rogan’s videos exclusive but allowing the audio to have wider release (essentially the opposite of the deal it has currently). This would help transition Rogan’s audience that still watches the show on YouTube, closing the consumption gap between YouTube and Spotify.
MIDiA’s prediction: Spotify goes all or nothing
Ultimately, for Rogan’s future Spotify deal to make sense for both parties, his content — audio and video — would have to be fully exclusive to the platform. This ensures that Spotify can maintain Rogan’s current audience and draw over those remaining from YouTube, while pushing Spotify’s new video agenda. This would also make this deal actually worth Rogan’s commitment. However, such a deal would come with a hefty price tag, plus Spotify has to uphold its new commitment to supporting independent creators. The 2024 US presidential election is also looming, which will bring Rogan’s controversy further to the fore and put Spotify’s Safety Advisory Council to the test.Spotify has a tricky decision to make, and it will likely end with either everything, or nothing.