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Alex Cooper’s new podcast network questions her future at Spotify and fuels competition for creators

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by Annie Langston

Call Her Daddy’s Alex Cooper has launched her own podcast network. A subsidiary of Trending, the media company Cooper launched earlier this year, The Unwell Network is targeting Gen Z audiences. In addition to producing both scripted and unscripted podcasts, the network will also explore live events. Cooper is one of the crucial pillars in Spotify’s podcast platform, with Daniel Ek citing her as a big draw for younger female audiences. While The Unwell Network’s new slate of shows will be released widely, Call Her Daddy will remain exclusive to Spotify for now. With Cooper’s exclusive deal set to expire in 2024 and Spotify committed to cut back spending on podcasts, this new network sets the stage for a potential shakeup and intensifies the competition for creators.

Competing for creators 

In this oversaturated and fragmented market, creators across entertainment are struggling to grow audiences. As Spotify promises to move away from expensive celebrity deals, its new focus is developing independent voices. However, as Spotify continues to oversaturate with podcasts (now hosting over five million podcasts and 100 million video podcasts), music, and audiobooks, it is increasingly difficult to cut through the noise. In this environment, Call Her Daddy is one of the few (some might say two, alongside The Joe Rogan Experience) podcasts that we can consider mainstream hits. 

Ultimately, Cooper is now directly competing with Spotify to sign podcast creators, particularly those aimed at Gen Z audiences. The Unwell Network’s initial signings of two TikTokers - Alix Earle and Madeline Argy - who are popular personalities among Gen Z audiences. Under Cooper, creators can learn from someone who built a top show from the ground up and has successfully tapped into younger audiences.The Unwell Network has a smaller roster of shows than Spotify does, with the ability to dedicate more time and resources to each show. Moreover, with Cooper’s stamp of approval, The Unwell Network shows are more or less guaranteed a listener base. 

These shows are also non-exclusive to Spotify, the latest sign that Spotify’s era of exclusivity may be over. Spotify is rolling back exclusivity on a number of shows, including Emma Chamberlain’s Anything Goes and new Spotify originals like Trevor Noah’s podcast. As Gen Z audiences are fragmented across a variety of platforms and formats, exclusivity might not be the best way to reach these listeners.

What is Call Her Daddy’s future? 

In 2021, Cooper signed an exclusive three-year, $60 million deal with Spotify and is now consistently hosting a top show on the platform. While both Cooper and Spotify have benefited from this partnership, the cost of exclusivity will decide the future of this renewal. In many ways, both Cooper and Spotify do not need exclusive deals anymore. This strategy helped Spotify go from having no podcasts to becoming one of the top podcast platforms. Now that it has achieved this goal, the next step is expanding audiences for the format as a whole. Spotify could adapt Cooper’s deal for flexible exclusivity to help minimise costs; for instance, keeping her podcast videos exclusive and widely releasing the audio version. However, the cost of any renewal with Cooper could prove too high for Spotify and it must consider its looming renewal with Rogan and its other losses in its podcast investments. 

While exclusivity amplified Cooper’s already established audience, she can now unlock the full potential of her show with a much stronger fanbase and can still release her show on Spotify without renewing her contract. In the long run, bringing Call Her Daddy to her own network and removing Spotify’s exclusivity makes more sense for Cooper.

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