Spotify Technology SA is making its move into live audio by acquiring the sports-talk app Locker Room and its maker Betty Labs.
The deal values the company, initially backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners, and more recently by Google Ventures and Precursor Ventures, around $50 million, according to a person familiar with the transaction.
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 Covid-19 lockdowns.
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.