Apple Planning to Fund Original, Exclusive Podcasts, Challenging Spotify: Report

For the first time, Apple plans to invest in original podcasts.

The Cupertino company plans to purchase the exclusive rights to podcasts, according to a Tuesday report from Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with the matter. Apple executives have contacted media companies to discuss buying programming, according to the report, which didn’t name the companies.

The report says that Apple‘s goal is in part to “keep competitors Spotify and Stitcher at bay” by identifying and funding specific podcasts from media companies, making exclusive deals that it has previously shied away from.

Positioning itself as a modern alternative to live radio, streaming leader Spotify has notably funded pre-recorded shows from celebrities and newsmakers, wooed independent podcasters, and invested hundreds of millions of dollars in podcasting companies. By contrast, Apple Music has offered live radio-like programming by hiring music deejays but hasn’t used podcasts to acquire subscribers.

While Apple Podcasts already has the largest slice of the podcasting market (up to 70 percent of the total listeners), the company has never tried to monetize in any way, opting to curate lists and highlight great shows instead. With the launch of macOS Catalina this fall, iTunes will be broken into three separate apps, of which Apple Music and Apple TV are already tied to subscription services.

With Podcasts now a standalone app, it seems almost inevitable that Apple would eventually add its own original content as a way to capture and retain listeners, a strategy that’s worked well so far with Apple Music. Bloomberg says the company is looking to stifle the momentum of companies such as Stitcher and Spotify who recently rolled out their own exclusive content to premium users.

Apple’s move comes on the heels of an aggressive push into podcasting by rival music streaming service Spotify. Spotify only accounts for between 10 percent and 20 percent of total podcast listeners, per Bloomberg, but it’s recently sought to amp up that audience with expensive acquisitions — in February, it acquired production studio Gimlet Media and distribution platform Anchor for $500 million USD.