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Spotify Reorgs Podcast Content Studios, Promoting Parcast’s Max Cutler and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons

L-R: Max Cutler and Bill Simmons

(Courtesy of Courtesy Images)

Spotify is making management changes to bolster the leadership of its podcast content operations following the departure of Courtney Holt, who served as head of studios and video.

Max Cutler, who joined Spotify in 2019 with its acquisition of Parcast, the scripted podcast studio he co-founded, has been promoted to head of talk creator content and partnerships for Spotify. In the new role, he will oversee the streamer’s emerging podcast creator ecosystem, licensed content, and work on new content initiatives. As part of his appointment, Spotify will form a “creator content” unit led by Cutler.

Cutler previously was Parcast’s head of new content initiatives and managing director. He reports to Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content and advertising business officer.

Bill Simmons, founder of The Ringer (which Spotify bought in 2020), will continue to lead the sports-centric content group but is also taking on a larger role as head of global sports content for Spotify and managing director of The Ringer. Simmons reports to Julie McNamara, the ex-Paramount+ content exec who joined Spotify as U.S. head of studios and video in September.

McNamara will continue to serve as head of talk studios overseeing all original audio content for the company. That includes all series from The Ringer, Parcast and Gimlet as well as major partnerships, including with J.J. Abram’s Bad Robot, DC and Warner Bros. (which recently premiered hit “Batman Unburied”), Jemele Hill’s Unbothered Network and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Archewell Audio.

There’s been a noticeable level of turnover among Spotify’s senior podcast ranks. In addition to Holt, other execs that have exited include Gimlet managing director Lydia Polgreen, who last month rejoined the New York Times as an opinion columnist; and head of studios for U.K./Ireland James Cator, who is now at Amazon’s Wondery. Earlier this year, Spotify shut down its in-house podcast production team, Studio 4.

Spotify is now looking for managing directors to run Gimlet and Parcast. In addition, the company also plans to hire a global markets lead for talk content who will be responsible for coordinating local-language versions of original podcasts (as Spotify did with “Batman Unburied,” available in English and eight other languages). That exec will initially report into Ostroff before shifting under McNamara.

Spotify kicked off its strategic podcast push in early 2019, as it has vied with rival Apple to be the dominant podcast platform in the market. In addition to spending hundreds of millions buying content studios, it has also snapped up audio ad-tech players like Megaphone and self-service podcast publishing company Anchor. And the company has inked exclusive podcast distribution deals including for “The Joe Rogan Experience,” worth more than $200 million over 3.5 years and Alex Cooper’s “Call Her Daddy,” more than $60 million over three years.

Holt, a former Disney digital media exec who joined Spotify in 2017, had been instrumental in landing high-profile podcast deals including with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Rogan and the Obamas (although the former first couple is planning to end its partnership with Spotify).

Variety's Todd Spangler contributed to this post.

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