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Apple Ramps Up Original Podcasts, in Part to Help Promote TV+

Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. is ramping up its push into original podcasts by seeking an executive to lead the initiative and buying shows that would be exclusive to its services.

The technology giant has begun acquiring two types of original podcasts, according to people familiar with the matter: one category is audio spinoffs of existing movies and programs on its Apple TV+ service, and the other is original programs that could eventually be adapted into future TV+ video content.

The company is seeking a leader for its original podcast work who would report to Ben Cave, its head of podcasting, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the effort isn’t yet public.

The move should help Apple promote its fledgling TV+ service, as well as defend the company against Spotify Technology SA’s aggressive move into podcasts. While Apple remains the dominant distributor of such programs in the U.S., Spotify has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in studios and original shows. The company, already the world’s leading paid music streamer, has boosted its share of podcast listening.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment.

In the industry, podcast producers are waiting for Apple to put more of its money into the medium. So far, it’s just dipping its toe into original podcasts -- nothing like the massive bet that Spotify is placing on the category.

About 37% of U.S. adults listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, according to Edison Research, but the industry still generates less than $1 billion in advertising sales.

Even if podcasting never becomes a big moneymaker for Apple, it could help support its trove of intellectual property, said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Partners. Audio offshoots of shows for TV+ would largely be marketing for the platform, which the company is hoping will further boost its services revenue over time.

“The audio consumption market, and the ability to use intellectual property to transform into other forms of IP, is really interesting,” he said.

Apple was one of the first technology players to popularize podcasting, adding the medium to iTunes 15 years ago. Since then, it’s been building out features for podcast listening on its devices.

Rogan Podcast

But Spotify is also on move. On Tuesday, it acquired the exclusive rights to Joe Rogan’s podcast, which consistently ranks as one of the five most popular shows on Apple. Spotify has also has purchased the Ringer, which owns Bill Simmons’s sports podcast; Gimlet Media, producer of the show “Reply All”; and Parcast, a producer of many popular true-crime shows.

Bloomberg News first reported last year that Apple planned to bankroll original podcasts and reported earlier this year on the plan to make original podcasts out of Apple TV+ shows.

Separate from its work on originals, Apple has asked some producers working on podcasts to provide versions of their offerings without advertisements, which fits into TV+’s ad-free approach. Apple has shunned advertisements in most of its services, including its Music and Arcade platforms, but features ads in the App Store and its free tier of Apple News.

Though the popularity of podcasts has surged in recent years, they’re suffering a hiccup during the pandemic. Many people listen to the shows during their commutes, and with so many people in lockdown, use has declined, according to Podtrac.

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