A lot of money is pouring into podcasting, most notably from Spotify, which is buying podcast companies and funding the creation of original, Spotify-only audio programming. But the industry’s biggest player, Apple, has refrained from making any moves in this area, despite its renewed focus on paid services—at least so far.
But here comes a report from Bloomberg suggesting that may be about to change:
Executives at the company have reached out to media companies and their representatives to discuss buying exclusive rights to podcasts, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations are preliminary. Apple has yet to outline a clear strategy, but has said it plans to pursue the kind of deals it didn’t make before….
“You are nowhere in podcasting if you don’t have shows listed in Apple podcasts,” said Lex Friedman, the chief revenue officer of Art19, which provides services to podcast producers such as Wondery Media and Tribune. But given all of the recent activity by its competition, “it would surprise me if Apple didn’t do anything with exclusives.”
Given Apple’s deep pockets and its focus on services, I can’t see how the company wouldn’t at least investigate the possibility of adding original audio content to its portfolio, both to strengthen the pull of the Podcasts app and increase the value of one of its existing services or a forthcoming services bundle.
As I wrote back in February: “With Spotify on the move, I have to wonder if Apple is going to need to take a more active approach in this area. The economics driving Apple Music and Spotify are quite similar; I’m a bit surprised Apple hasn’t invested in premium, subscriber-only audio content (because if it’s subscriber-only it’s not really a podcast) for subscribers of Apple Music. We hear about Apple spending billions on video content for its new streaming service, but not a peep about Apple using its power in podcasting to boost Apple Music or at least keep Spotify’s expansion at bay…. Perhaps Apple’s light touch on the world of podcasting will continue, at least until a competitor does something to get its attention.”
Maybe Spotify finally has Apple’s attention.