The Ringer and other podcast firms join the union wave

December 2, 2019Media Mention
Los Angeles Times

When Bill Simmons, the popular former ESPN sports columnist set up The Ringer in 2016, he drew legions of fans to his irreverent sports podcasts. As the L.A. site grew, however, so did the demands of his employees. This summer they formed a 66-member union with the Writers Guild of America East and management moved quickly to recognize it.

But the process has not been seamless. Last month, Simmons’s nephew Kyle Crichton, a producer at The Ringer who appears on Simmons’ popular podcast, posted a rap to his Soundcloud page called “State of the Union,” rhyming about not wanting a handout and a lockout. The rap prompted a swift backlash on social media, with some Ringer fans suggesting the company was “anti-union.”

“Wherever there’s the distribution of content and the distributors get content for free or cheap, there’s a strong incentive for the content creators to unionize,” said Daniel Stone, a partner in the litigation and entertainment and media groups at Greenberg Glusker. “People think of podcasting as new but in many ways, podcasting is just another form of radio. That industry has been unionized for decades. It’s a natural fit for entertainment unions to go after that space.”