Jemele Hill on The Dan Le Batard Show. Jemele Hill on The Dan Le Batard Show.

In June 2021, Spotify announced plans to build a podcast network centered on Black women, and to have that centered around Jemele Hill, the former ESPN personality and current contributing writer to The Atlantic. Last November, Hill told former ESPN colleague Sarah Spain that her work developing the Unbothered Network there was critical, and was why she was working with that company even while criticizing fellow Spotify host Joe Rogan. But as per reports from Bloomberg and The Wrap Friday, it now looks like Hill, her Unbothered with Jemele Hill podcast, and her network may be exiting Spotify:

One noticeable difference between those stories is that the Bloomberg one presents this as definitely happening, while the Wrap one suggests negotiations could still end with Hill staying on. Here’s the key part of the Bloomberg story on that front:

Another prominent podcaster is leaving Spotify Technology SA, as the company reverses many of its biggest investments in original audio and loses yet another Black voice.

Jemele Hill, an award-winning journalist and former sportscaster, is ending her relationship with the Swedish streaming service, which exclusively distributes the Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast and her Unbothered Network of shows, according to people familiar with the conversations. Hill and Spotify are negotiating the terms of her separation, which will result in the end of her show and network — at least at Spotify, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiation is ongoing.

Spotify declined to comment.

Here’s the Wrap story on that angle:

Journalist and former sportscaster Jemele Hill is negotiating terms of separation with Spotify, ending the “Unbothered” podcast and Unbothered Network’s time with the service.

“There have been discussions about that possibility,” a Spotify spokesperson told TheWrap when asked about Hill exiting the service, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

A spokesperson for Hill’s The Unbothered Network didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

So this may not be completely decided yet. But the “is ending” and “to leave” language in the Bloomberg story sure makes it seem like it will end with that separation. And it’s interesting to see that come after Spotify had talked up Hill so much in 2021, and after she’d sounded quite committed to what she was building there last November. Here’s the key part of what she told Spain then, on Spain’s That’s What She Said podcast:

Mostly what I think about now with the business relationships I have is…Inevitably, I’m going to say something…that’s going to be ahead of my time. So when this happens, what’s going to be your response? That determines a lot. This Spotify relationship. All I can tell people… it’s complicated.”

“I don’t know Joe Rogan, I’m not here for Joe Rogan. He’s terrible. He irresponsibly uses his platform all the time. The way Spotify operates is it’s like the McDonald’s corporation. They just lend out franchises. Maybe it would be a different conversation if they had ever come to me and said you know what, you can’t say that, but they let Joe Rogan say whatever. That would be different, right? In their minds, they are just like we’re just the platform. Yes, we will clean up what we can but other than that, it’s out of our hands.”

“They have given me the same treatment. If that were different, I’d say we have a problem here, but we don’t. On top of that, with me developing this podcast network for black women, that’s more important than Joe Rogan. It wouldn’t have made any sense for me to end the relationship with Spotify, which would have been very costly…and wanting to make sure this network got off the ground was very important to me. I’m not going to walk away from that for somebody I don’t know.”

Those comments to Spain came after Hill (seen above on The Dan Le Batard Show last year)’s comments to The New York Times in February 2022. There, as part of a story on Rogan’s deal with Spotify (initially reported as worth at least $100 million, then reported as actually worth $200 million), Hill said “What I would like to see is for them to hand $100 million to somebody who is Black.” And yes, that kicked up some fuss, but her conversation with Spain came nine months later, and it sure didn’t sound like she was preparing to leave Spotify then. (And the company did announce a $100 million “Creator Equity Fund” for creators from marginalized backgrounds after that exchange, but as per Bloomberg, they’ve spent less than 10 percent of that fund so far.)

There have been some big changes underway at Spotify lately, though. And those have included the exits of founders of content networks Parcast, Gimlet Media, and Anchor. So it’s possible that Spotify is going in a direction that no longer works for Hill, or that they’re now less interested in her and her network than they were. At any rate, it will be interesting to see if this exit does come to pass, and if so, what that means for Hill’s podcast and for the network she was building.

Update: Hill commented on this on Twitter, saying “a lot of what’s been reported just isn’t true,” her podcast “hasn’t been cancelled,” listing her upcoming guests, and saying “When I have something to say, I’ll say it.”

[Bloomberg, The Wrap]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.