Apple Unveils Podcast Subscriptions

Apple Unveils Podcast Subscriptions

04/20/2021

Apple unwrapped its latest bid to boost content revenue: The tech giant announced that it will roll out subscriptions for Apple Podcasts starting next month.

It’s the “biggest change to Apple Podcasts” since the company first launched podcast support 15 years ago, CEO Tim Cook said on the livestream for Apple’s “Spring Loaded” virtual product launch event Tuesday.

Pricing for each podcast subscription is set by creators and billed monthly by default; Apple didn’t say what percentage of subscription fees it would keep but under its current App Store policies it keeps 30% of subscription fees in the first year and 15% in subsequent years. Creators also can offer annual billing options as well as free trials and sample episodes offered by creators.

Initial partners for Apple’s podcast subscriptions include Tenderfoot TV, Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia from PRX, Qcode, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, The Athletic and Sony Music Entertainment. The podcast subscription option will roll out in 170 regions and countries in May. The company noted that Apple Podcasts will continue to offer a wealth of free podcasts — currently, its lineup includes more than 2 million free shows.

In addition, the company is rolling out a redesigned Apple Podcasts app, which will provide a landing page for each podcast title, as well as new channels and recommendations for users. That will make “listening to podcasts easier and more enjoyable than ever before,” Cook said.

The Apple Podcasters Program, which includes all of the tools needed to offer premium subscriptions on Apple Podcasts, will be available for $19.99 per year.

At the Spring Loaded event, Apple is also expected to introduce a faster, 5G-enabled version of the iPad Pro tablet, and AirTags — small wireless devices that use Apple’s Find My Network app to let customers track down objects (like Tile).

Apple’s plans to monetize podcasts through paid subscriptions reflect the ongoing rise of the medium’s popularity. About 80 million Americans (28% of the U.S. population 12 and older) are now weekly podcast listeners, up 17% increase over 2020, per Triton Digital/Edison Research’s latest research.

The move adds a new wrinkle in the competitive dynamics for the podcast industry. Earlier this year, Spotify announced that it would begin testing the ability for podcasters to earn revenue through paid subscriptions for exclusive content on the platform.

The Apple Podcasts subscription option will join the company’s collection of other content offerings, which include Apple TV Plus, Apple Music, Apple Arcade and Apple News Plus. For the year-end 2020 quarter, revenue in Apple’s Services segment — which also includes the App Store and Apple Pay — zipped up 24%, to a record $15.8 billion.

For now, it’s not clear how — or whether — the podcast subscriptions will be incorporated into the Apple One bundles. Launched last fall, Apple One packages together services include Apple Music and Apple TV Plus for discounts from regular monthly à la carte pricing.

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