'Call Her Daddy' now calls Spotify its exclusive home. Cooper gives a rare interview to ET about her podcast, its past and its future.
Daddy's home, and that home is Spotify. Alex Cooper's wildly popular podcast, Call Her Daddy, is now in an exclusive relationship with, arguably, the daddy of audio streaming services. It's a boss move that's not lost on the woman who made it, especially after headlines about the deal -- reported to be worth upward of $60 million, though other figures are floating around -- labeled it "historic."
"I didn't expect the number to come out," Cooper confesses to ET over video chat from her Los Angeles home. "And then I definitely called my PR team ... being like, do you see the headlines? Only because I had said it in my podcast, and I was very vocal about it. 'Why does it say one of the biggest female podcast deals?' Take out the word 'female.' It's one of the biggest podcast deals and it would never say, 'One of the biggest male deals.' Like, what are we talking about? So that was my only frustration with that."
Outlets quickly dropped the gender qualifier from their headlines, but the numbers -- which neither Cooper's team nor Spotify would confirm to ET -- stayed. Cooper views those public financial figures (real or not) as pure motivation.
"I now feel more pressure, because I'm such a competitive person -- I've played sports my whole life -- so now that I have [the deal], I think it's only the beginning for me," she says. "Like, I want to prove that I do deserve [a big] number and I'm going to work my a** off to … continue to elevate. It's not like I'm coasting, like. 'Oh, I made it!' No, now it's game time."
"I want to be the biggest podcaster in the world," she proclaims. "I want every single woman/man to know this brand, live this brand."
The former Boston University soccer player says Spotify came to her at the right moment to take said brand to the next level, offering to-be-revealed user experiences for the "Daddy Gang," Cooper's trove of loyal listeners who have kept Call Her Daddy at the top of the podcast charts for years. She promises the show won't change in its new home. If anything, there will just be more of it to go around.
"I also truly believe -- I'm a little bit out ahead of it -- but I think soon, in the next few years, everyone's going to be exclusive," she says.
Cooper's likely not wrong. Spotify landed exclusive deals with other major names in podcasting and entertainment over the last year, notably Joe Rogan, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Michelle Obama and others. Competitors like Audible are doing the same.
"What I articulated to everyone when talking about where the show was going to go, my main focus was, nobody is changing anything with regard to the creative," Cooper says of the Spotify version of Call Her Daddy. "Nothing specifically is really changing that my audience is going to feel like, 'Alex went to Spotify. We lost her.' If anything, it's just, 'Oh my gosh, we get more Call Her Daddy,' which has always been the goal."
Alex’s full library of episodes, currently totaling 126, will live exclusively on Spotify moving forward, along with all new episodes to come. Alex has edited all 126 herself, a job she's not giving up.
"I respect Spotify so much, the minute I came on, they were like, 'Let's help you get a team. Let's get you delegating,'" she recalls. "And the truth is -- and I forget who I said this to the other day -- but I said, 'I think I've come to the conclusion, and I'm not mad about it anymore, I think for the rest of my career, I will be editing the Call Her Daddy podcast.' I met with a few editors, and I have so much respect for everyone that I've met with, but the truth is there's such a secret sauce to the editing that I put into this show and I can't teach it to someone. And I think it's a huge reason why it was and is so successful. So, I'm going to be the editor of the show always."
Call Her Daddy launched in 2018, living briefly as an independent podcast before moving under the Barstool Sports umbrella of shows, where it became a consistent hit, racking up millions of downloads each week. Alex says her new Spotify deal has the full blessing of Dave Portnoy, the outspoken, outlandish face/founder of the Barstool brand.
"I'm really grateful, and I've always said with regard to Dave and my relationship, I'm so thankful for the platform that he gave me,” Cooper shares. "We actually had a really good heart-to-heart phone conversation with him and then the CEO [of Barstool], Erika Nardini, and I remember getting emotional on the phone call. I got off the phone. I was like, 'Mom, I think I was crying to Dave.' She was like, 'What?' I'm like, 'I don't know, but it almost feels like I graduated and they were my professors.'"
"I don't know how else to explain it," she says. "There is a sense of, [Barstool] will be a part of me because I started it there and that's where it blew up. So, he actually is completely fine with it -- and he's been very public about that, that we have a good relationship -- and he always said, 'I knew this was going to happen. I told her a year ago. If you wait it out, you're going to get a big deal and I'll be happy for you.' So he stuck to his word, which I'm happy about."
"I feel really at peace with the entire process and how it went, especially with how the first round of negotiations went. It's so different," Cooper remarks.
That first round of talks between Cooper and Portnoy is well-known among the Daddy Gang. Cooper went from followed to famous essentially overnight last spring, when drama over contract negotiations nearly blew up Call Her Daddy for good. A now-mythic rooftop discussion between Cooper, Portnoy and Cooper's then co-host, Sofia Franklyn, became digital fodder. The Call Her Daddy co-hosts' feud over the future of the show became the talk of tabloids, thanks in large part to the coronavirus pandemic giving Daddy Gang and non-listeners alike plenty of time to dig into the who, what and where of it all.
Those negotiations in 2020 changed the show for good, with Cooper signing back on with Barstool after a hiatus from the show, and Franklyn exiting Call Her Daddy. The ex-hosts (and now former roommates/friends) shared their respective sides of the story on YouTube, podcast episodes and social media, creating a she said/she said dynamic that colored Call Her Daddy's relaunch for weeks after Cooper became the show's "single father."
"You want to give your explanation and you want to give a little bit towards what you know drives traffic, but you also have to take care of your mental health," Cooper reflects. "It was a weird feeling to have my career explode and get bigger, but also on a personal note, losing a relationship with someone. There [were] a lot of different emotions going on, but by this point now in my life, I've gone through a lot of self-realization and just really going through the steps of almost, like, grieving. It sounds weird, but that's kind of what it is, you know?"
Cooper says that, for a while, it felt like some of the people following the saga were forgetting there were two humans, with thoughts, feelings and emotions, behind the drama. She entered therapy to work through the drama/trauma, but also the adjustment to becoming a public figure.
"Through therapy I had really realized, like, I am where I'm supposed to be, and this was eventually going to happen," she says. "I'm in a great place where I want to be, and I'm really happy."
"Everybody thinks they know what happened, and there's so much even more still to the story that will never come out, and I think that's just out of respect for both of our lives," Cooper adds. "I feel, genuinely, completely done with that situation. I feel like this is such a new chapter and I don't have any anger left or resentment."
Cooper hasn't spoken to Franklyn since the dust settled last year, and didn't listen to Franklyn's podcast when it launched last year (she did have a friend tune in, though, and report back), but wishes her ex co-host nothing but the best.
"For a while there was absolutely a sour taste, which makes me sad when I actually reflect on it now," she says, "but naturally that's going to happen. Now that I've had enough time away from it, I am so eternally grateful for the years, like the two, little under two years that were spent creating that with someone else."
Cooper doesn't make it a secret, however, that she prefers working alone. While it felt daunting at first, she realized going solo pushed the show into newer, better territory.
"The show was also sort of, like, not plateauing, but it was like, how many more times can they talk about sex?" she asks, referencing, essentially, Call Her Daddy's original premise. "Being able to have the show on my own, I've been able to really steer it in a genuine direction of, like, therapy. I wasn't in therapy when I started Call Her Daddy and now I am, and it's become such a big part of my life, and therefore it's become part of the Daddy Gang’s life, and the amount of women that are now getting into therapy or men that are getting into therapy, just because I'm being vulnerable and opening up about it, it's amazing. It really feels amazing."
Cooper is somewhat of a Carrie Bradshaw for the digital age, even sharing in the Sex and the City heroine's practice of keeping her significant other's name a secret from her readers. Well, in Cooper's case, listeners. Bradshaw has Mr. Big, Cooper has Mr. Sexy Zoom Man. She only shares so much about her guy -- and other figures in her personal life -- on the podcast, boundaries she set up at the show's inception. While there's much speculation over who Mr. Sexy Zoom Man is, the Daddy Gang doesn't push Cooper to reveal his identity.
"My listeners have been so respectful," she says. "I do have a boundary for myself. I only talk about one of my childhood best friends, Lauren. The rest of my friends have quite normal jobs and just don't really want to be recognized. I also don't follow some of them on social media. And then my sister and I have a very beautiful relationship and I just don't want to talk about her because she doesn't want to be spoken about, and I respect it. My brother's like, 'Go for it. Tell the ladies, here I am.' But now he's in a relationship and he's like, 'Stop mentioning me.'"
As for Mr. Sexy Zoom Man (MSZM for short?), Cooper says he "knew what he was signing up for" when he met her. "I already told my boyfriend, 'Sorry, but if we have amazing sex or something awful happens, they're going to hear about it, and he's like, 'OK…'" she says, qualifying that MSZM does ask for a heads up any time he’s mentioned on air.
Cooper's basically the internet's best girlfriend, who's not scared to talk about any issue, from the bedroom to the boardroom. It’s what's made Call Her Daddy a must-listen for many, and become a responsibility the host doesn't take lightly.
"I was terrified to tell my listeners that I got a boyfriend and then I said it and they were all like, 'Finally, let's go!'" Cooper recalls. "And I was like, oh. We're growing up together. That's the beautiful part of this show and I feel like so many women now are like, 'Tell us how to have a boyfriend.' And I'm like, oh, OK. I understand now, you want to be a part of it because it's happening to everyone. Everyone is going to have a boyfriend. Everyone's going to get married. Everyone's going to go through breakups. I think whatever's happening in my life, everyone is just open to hearing about it because at one point or another, you're probably going to experience something similar."
Cooper calls her unintentional life as a role model of sorts both "unbelievable" and "stressful." A quick Twitter search will show you thousands of users asking, "What would Alex Cooper do?"
"I just make sure now whatever I'm saying, I'm really making sure I mean what I'm saying," she says, "because I think in the beginning days, I may have said some things that were so wild that I look back now and I'm like, 'What was I saying?' Now I definitely have a little bit more of a focus on making sure whatever I'm saying, it's going to make sure that I stand by that."
Cooper doesn't give many interviews. In fact, this one is one of the only she's given outside of appearing on friends' podcasts. When asked why she's been media shy up until now, Cooper references the one mainstream interview she did: a New York Post feature in 2019 that, in her words, made her and her then-co-host out to look like "a full-blown escort service" under the header, "Daddy's' Girls."
"I had definitely not the best experience with a media moment, and I felt with the beauty of social media is you can dictate exactly what you want your PR and your marketing to be, yourself," she notes. "So, I figured I'm trying to build a brand and I want the narrative to be told through me and not others speculating, especially with the nature of my show. I wanted to have the voice. And so I think now with the progression of the brand, I know exactly what it is. I think everyone knows the nature of Call Her Daddy and it's cemented as a brand that everyone respects."
It remains to be seen what kind of interviews Cooper gives from here, but she'll be doing plenty of her own on her new Spotify-exclusive episodes. She's teased her followers for weeks about the conversations she's banked so far, and is especially excited about her first Spotify sitdown, a chat with her comedy idol, Chelsea Handler. The name at the top of her list to interview next is Taylor Swift.
"I have so much respect for what she's built and the way that she's handled the industry," Cooper says of the singer-songwriter, "and we had a certain someone try to get in between -- I mean, hers was more extreme -- but someone getting in between negotiations, and that man also tried to get into my negotiations back in the day. So I feel her on a personal level." (That certain someone is Scooter Braun, the music manager who's found himself in a years-long back and forth with Swift over various business issues. He reportedly reached out to Cooper and/or Franklyn amid their Barstool negotiations.)
While she waits to book Swift on the show, Cooper has plenty of projects to work on when it comes to the Call Her Daddy brand. More merch drops and a book are in the works.
"I'm trying to take over the world, so bear with me," Cooper cracks. "I would love to get Call Her Daddy international. I want it to be out there for everyone to consume."
"I know this product better than anyone," she says. "I've built it from the ground up, and through all the controversy, the one thing I always stuck to was Call Her Daddy. The brand is bigger than anyone that was in those conversations, and I stayed loyal to the brand, also the audience -- and the audience has stayed behind Call Her Daddy."
"The Daddy Gang is bigger than anything I could have ever imagined having and making," she continues. "I'm staying with what I built because I know the energy and the time and the work that I put into making it, and it's valuable, clearly."
All episodes of Call Her Daddy are now streaming on Spotify.