Apple has been slowly building its empire of subscription services for everything from news and fitness to TV and cloud storage. But Apple has dragged its feet on podcasts, which is strange considering the company popularised the creation and distribution of podcasts about [checks notes] 16 years ago. Apple is reportedly coming around to a podcast subscription service, but it might also create more antitrust headaches for a company already plagued by them.
Citing sources familiar with the topic, the Information reported Friday that Apple is in talks to launch a paid subscription service for podcasts. It’s not clear how a subscription model would work, but the Information noted that charging a fee for specific podcasts could pad the pockets of content creators and could help attract talent, perhaps even away from existing platforms. Alternatively, if Apple charged for a premium version of its podcasts app — let’s call it Podcasts+ for now — it could potentially group it in with its Apple One bundles and use it to help secure subscribers for other premium apps in its portfolio, like Arcade or Apple Music.
Apple declined Gizmodo’s request for comment.
The discussions may not be final and Apple could change its mind, according to the Information. But there’s certainly plenty of reason to believe Apple is heading in this direction. Apple has made services a huge part of its product development in recent years, some with their own pipeline of original content, as with Apple TV+ and Fitness+. The company had also reportedly been ramping up its efforts around original podcasts last year, which was rumoured to entail programming that draws from its TV+ content, Bloomberg reported at the time. It also snapped up podcast curation tool Scout FM last fall, and Apple was said to have been among the companies that explored an acquisition of Wondery, which was eventually bought by Amazon.
But it would be an odd move for a company constantly embroiled in antitrust drama. Particularly where it pertains to Spotify — which would be one of the primary competitors to a Podcasts+ service — the company is potentially looking at reigniting a years-long feud, which probably won’t help Apple’s position in other antitrust cases (though those have primarily taken aim at its controversial App Store policies). And Apple knows it’s in hot water here, too. The company’s annual filing this month in no uncertain terms acknowledged that its board of directors “regularly” reviews the company’s antitrust risks.
A podcast subscription would be a huge reversal from Apple’s historically hands-off approach to podcasts, which podcast creators were concerned about just a few years ago. But, again, a premium podcast app would fit perfectly with Apple’s own product portfolio and could lure paying subscribers to its own app from those of its competitors. And the chance to launch yet another service may be too attractive for Apple to pass up.