Spotify Acquires Sports-Talk App Locker Room--Update
By Anne Steele
Spotify Technology SA is making its move into live audio by
acquiring the sports-talk app Locker Room and its maker Betty
The deal values the company, initially backed by Lightspeed
Venture Partners, and more recently by Google Ventures and
Precursor Ventures, at around $50 million, according to a person
familiar with the transaction. If certain targets are met the value
could climb closer to $80 million, this person said.
Locker Room has quickly become the spot for fan chatter around
games and sports news, with the likes of Miami Heat forward Andre
Iguodala and Philadelphia 76ers guard Seth Curry to podcaster Ant
Wright and ESPN's Jeff Darlington dropping in for conversations as
well. It filled a real-time, interactive void for sports fans left
by the inability to gather in arenas, stadiums and bars during the
The purchase follows an explosion in demand for live audio apps
amid the pandemic. Voice-based social networks, such as Clubhouse,
Twitter Spaces, Water Cooler and Locker Room, allow users to
converse spontaneously. They are an alternative to podcasts, but
they are also a curated amalgamation of podcasts, live streams,
conferences and radio. Comedians, artists and business leaders have
flocked to these apps' virtual rooms to perform, chat, debate and
network across topics and industries.
For Spotify, which has expanded into podcasting to position
itself as the world's largest audio company -- not just a
music-streaming giant -- the deal is a bet that live audio will
last well beyond the pandemic.
"Our creators have been asking for a long time to be able to be
more interactive with fans," Gustav Söderström, Spotify's research
and development chief, said in an interview. "The most effective
way is to actually speak to them live."
The Locker Room app is less than a year old. It launched in
October of last year and has seen about 19,000 installs since then,
according to app research firm Sensor Tower Inc. So far in March,
it has seen about 8,000 installs, already representing 60%
month-over-month growth from all of February.
Spotify plans to rebrand and relaunch the app with a broader
focus across sports, music and pop culture. The company plans to
keep it a stand-alone product, but users will be able to record
live sessions and upload them to Spotify or podcasting platform
Anchor and distribute them broadly. The streaming giant plans to
tap its music and podcasting stars and users to facilitate
programming with artists hosting album-listening parties or DJs
spinning live sets before uploading them as playlists.
Sportscasters and fans can weigh in around games, and podcasters
could host live "ask me anything" sessions, or AMAs.
"How do you talk to many people at once has been a challenge,
and this format has turned out to be very scalable," Mr. Söderström
said. "You can have a few people on stage, you can raise your hand
in the audience and be unmuted and ask a question, unlike on
Twitter where you have everyone screaming all at once."
For now, the app and its content will remain free for all to
access, though Spotify has been working on ways for creators to
monetize their content, such as a la carte payments for
"Maybe live is a revenue model, maybe it isn't," said Mr.
Söderström, adding that while China has shown aptitude to pay for
this kind of service, Western markets haven't. "It has potential,
and it's our job to explore."
Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 30, 2021 14:38 ET (18:38 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.