The iPhone giant has explored adding a paid audio product, a risky move given the proliferation of free, ad-supported programming.
In the past decade-and-a-half, Apple has built significant influence in the podcasting industry by letting creators reach its large audience of device owners without charging them a dime. But the company’s recent conversations with creative partners about introducing a subscription product to its podcasting business signals that its reign as a benevolent distributor might be coming to an end.
The talks, first reported by The Information, have been ongoing since at least last fall, sources tell to The Hollywood Reporter, and ultimately could end up taking several different forms. Regardless, it’s clear that Tim Cook-led Apple — after spending the last two years watching rival-in-music-streaming Spotify invest hundreds of millions of dollars to align itself with some of the most prolific producers and most popular personalities in podcasting — is no longer content sitting on the sideline. “There’s a huge opportunity sitting under their nose with 1.4 million iOS devices globally,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives, “and they don’t want to lose out.” Apple declined to comment about its podcasting plans.
Much of the growth of the podcasting industry over the last decade can be traced back to Apple and its former CEO Steve Jobs, who in 2005 declared that he was “bringing podcasting mainstream” by adding support for the medium to iTunes. A few years later, the company introduced a separate Podcasts app that quickly became the leading distribution platform for the medium. But Apple, which netted $275 billion in sales in fiscal 2020, has refrained from turning podcasting — still a relatively small industry that the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimated would bring in nearly $1 billion in U.S. advertising revenue last year — into a moneymaking venture.