Apple, with a revived focus on services and original content, is reportedly looking to invest in podcasts. Bloomberg reports today that the tech company is reaching out to media companies to discuss making certain shows exclusive to Apple Podcasts, the company’s podcast listening app. Apple declined to comment for this story.
This is a complete rethinking of Apple and its place in the podcast ecosystem. The company has always played a neutral role in podcasting, one in which anyone could upload their podcast’s RSS feed into Apple’s app and distribute it through the platform. The company curates lists and highlights noteworthy shows, but those picks were never Apple-funded. If what this report suggests is true, Apple would be in a place where it might be enticed to market and call out its own shows over its partners’ programs, as it’s already done with shows like Carpool Karaoke.
The business model shift isn’t necessarily unexpected, but it’s monumental for the buzzy industry, which is moving over to siphoned listening platforms with specific content on each. Apple rival Spotify, for example, announced earlier this year that it plans to spend $500 million on podcast-related acquisitions. It acquired two podcast networks — Gimlet Media and Parcast — both of which make popular shows. Going forward, those networks’ shows will only be available through Spotify. (Spotify’s stock dropped by at least 2 percent based off this news.)
Other platforms, like the startup Luminary, have made exclusive shows their entire business model. Luminary launched this spring with multiple big-name shows from celebrities like The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, Girls creator Lena Dunham, and Queer Eye star Karamo Brown, which are only available on the app. The idea is to encourage people to subscribe to Luminary for a monthly fee.
Apple moving, at least partially, toward exclusive shows could fundamentally change the industry. Apple is where most podcast listeners find their shows — more than 50 percent of people listen through Apple Podcasts, according to the Spotify-owned Anchor last year. But if Apple starts creating allegiances to networks and specific shows, creators might be swayed to move toward exclusivity agreements themselves, as opposed to distributing their show across all apps. Notably, Apple hasn’t yet made money off podcasts. This might be a way for it to monetize that content, like it plans to do with Apple TV Plus and Apple Arcade, and like it already does with Apple Music. As iPhone sales have dipped worldwide, Apple has begun moving over to a services-oriented model, and it was likely only a matter of time before it set its sights on podcasts.