Well, it turns out the rumors were true. At Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event in Cupertino on Tuesday morning, the iPhone maker’s first virtual product event of 2021, we got our first look at the company’s subscription Podcasts offering, which had been rumored about as part of Tuesday’s slate of announcements and which adds a subscription element to the company’s currently free Podcasts app that comes pre-installed on iPhones and iPads.
Apple Podcasts Subscriptions certainly wasn’t the biggest announcement on deck today, at an event which also introduced hardware upgrades like new iPad models. But the podcasts announcement is nevertheless interesting for a number of reasons for Apple, not the least of which is that it continues Apple’s push deeper into “Services” revenue and continues an expansion of the iPhone maker’s identity as a content giant (along with things like Apple Music, Apple News+ and Apple TV+).
Apple CEO Tim Cook, during Tuesday’s presentation, called this the biggest update to Apple’s Podcasts app since its inception. From the company’s official announcement:
“Starting in May, listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can sign up for premium subscriptions that include a variety of benefits curated by creators, such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series. Listeners will be able to enjoy premium subscriptions from independent voices and premier studios, including Tenderfoot TV, Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia from PRX, and QCODE, to leading media and entertainment brands, including NPR, The Los Angeles Times, The Athletic, Sony Music Entertainment, and many more.”
“Fifteen years ago, Apple took podcasts mainstream, offering creators a premier, open platform to inform, entertain, and inspire hundreds of millions of listeners around the world,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “Today, Apple Podcasts is the best place for listeners to discover and enjoy millions of great shows, and we are proud to lead the next chapter of podcasting with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. We’re excited to introduce this powerful new platform to creators around the world, and we can’t wait to hear what they make with it.”
Pricing will be set by each individual podcast creator and billed monthly be default, so there’s not a single new Apple Podcasts paid price point to share with you. As we noted in a post yesterday, this announcement from Apple shouldn’t also come as a surprise at all. We certainly already had an inkling that Apple planned to start funding its own original podcasts, something that Spotify has been doing for a while now as a way to differentiate itself. And putting those behind a paid tier of some kind would seem a natural fit, eventually.
Among the reasons why this feels like a no-brainer for Apple is that the company can kind of slot the new Podcasts paid tier into a flywheel of sorts, whereby a number of different Apple offerings can now work to support each other. Imagine, for example, if Apple started its own in-house tech news podcast, similar to the way it funds TV show creation via Apple TV+ and has its own content studio for workouts filmed as part of Apple Fitness+. After the release of a new generation of iPhones, for example, Apple CEO Tim Cook could record a spot that gets put behind the new Podcast tier, which also talks up something new on Apple TV+, and round and round that wheel goes.
In truth, even before this announcement, Apple had already started down the road of original podcast creation. Earlier this month, the iPhone maker announced the 6-part series The Line. It’s a companion to a 4-part Apple documentary series coming this fall, both of which, per Apple, offer “a unique perspective on previously untold aspects of the story of US Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was charged with committing war crimes before ultimately being acquitted on all but one count: for posing in a photo with a corpse. Both series will examine the complicated realities involved with fighting a decades-long war, stripping back the layers surrounding Gallagher’s alleged crimes.”
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