As demand for podcasts heats up, Spotify has announced plans to acquire The Ringer, a sports and culture multimedia site created in 2016 by ex-ESPN columnist Bill Simmons.

Although The Ringer's purview extends beyond podcasts, its portfolio of 30-plus shows like "The Bill Simmons Podcast" was likely a major draw for Stockholm-based Spotify as it widens its scope from just music. The audio-streaming giant added three other podcast companies last year. In February, it grabbed Gimlet Media and Anchor FM for a combined €308 million (around $339 million at today's conversion rate). A month later, Spotify struck an approximate €50 million deal for Parcast.

The new deal will strengthen Spotify's sports- and pop culture-related offerings, as well as further The Ringer in its goal of becoming a leading sports audio provider. "We bought the next ESPN," Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said during the company's Q4 earnings call Wednesday, adding that the transaction will be especially valuable considering the "billions of people that will start listening to audio" in the next 10 years.

Millions already are. More than half of the US population aged 12 and over has listened to a podcast at least once, according to a March 2019 survey by Edison Research and Triton Digital. Media companies are bolstering podcast offerings to satiate skyrocketing demand.

The New York Times, for example, is pursuing Serial Productions, maker of the popular true-crime podcast "Serial," according to The Wall Street Journal. And in 2018, iHeartMedia acquired podcast producer Stuff Media for a reported $55 million.

The Ringer self-published on the blogging platform Medium until partnering with Vox Media in 2017. Vox itself is backed by venture capital, most recently raising $200 million in 2015 from Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal. That round bumped Vox's valuation to nearly $1.1 billion, according to PitchBook data.

Featured image via Amy Sussman/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment

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