Apple Subscriptions Move Looks Like Bid To Become 'Netflix Of Podcasts'

Starting next month, for the first time since it entered podcasts 15 years ago, Apple will start letting podcast publishers sell subscriptions through Apple Podcasts and take a portion of those subscription sales.

The move, which will make Apple Podcasts subscriptions available in more than 170 countries, was announced by CEO Tim Cook announced during the tech giant’s event at its Cupertino, California HQ on Tuesday.

Up to now, Apple did not collect subscription revenue through Apple Podcasts, but publishers could charge subscription fees through RSS feeds.

According to one report, podcast creators that want to carry advertising will be able to do so without sharing the revenue with Apple.

“Apple is creating the Netflix of podcasts,” Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research, told The Los Angeles Times. “They are enabling creators [with] a distribution channel to 1.65 billion devices.”

Knowledgeable sources cited by The Times, Vox’s Recodeand others said that Apple will keep 30% of subscription sales generated by creators in their first year on the platform, and 15% thereafter — the same terms Apple applies to other subscriptions services, including streaming. Publishers will determine their own subscription prices; the minimum is 49 cents.

Neither Cook or Apple’s online announcement explicitly mentioned creators’ ability to take advertising, never mind any possibility that Apple might want to take a portion of ad sales.

But they implied the existence of advertising on some podcasts by mentioning the reverse: That creators may choose to offer benefits “such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or excusive access to new series,” says Apple’s post.

Recode also alludes to advertising. 

Apple will not require podcasters to create exclusive shows for Apple, but will expect them to distinguish between content they’re already distributing through Apple and content put up on other platforms, according to Recode’s source. This “could mean ad-free shows or shows with extra content, or brand-new shows that only exist on Apple,” says the report.

The L.A. Times’ source went further, reporting that podcast creators “will receive 100% of the revenue generated by advertising.”

The Times is one of several companies that have already committed to offering premium subscriptions through Apple Podcasts. Others include The Washington Post, Sony Music Entertainment, and Tenderfoot TV.

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