At the latest Apple event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, a premium podcast subscription service set to bring early access and ad-free listening to subscribers from May.
It comes as the brand looks to further embed users into its services ecosystem by introducing easy subscription plans to those that use its popular podcast app.
It's been confirmed that Apple will be taking a 30% cut of creator-led subscriptions in the first year, and 15% in the second – although that may be comparable to other providers.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A creator-led subscription service for Apple Podcasts
- When is it out? Sometime in May
- What will it cost? Pricing dependant on creators
Release date and price
We had been expecting the arrival of a premium Apple Podcasts service for some time, and after months of rumors, it came as no surprise to see it officially confirmed at the company's latest announcement event.
During the livestream, Tim Cook confirmed Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will become available for Apple users sometime in May.
Rather than being a blanket subscription, the service will allow listeners to subscribe to individual content creators, who will set the pricing for their respective premium offerings (starting at ¢49 – likely around 50p – per month).
Subscriptions will be billed monthly by default, though creators can offer annual billing if they so choose, which subscribers will be able to manage from their Apple ID account settings. Free trials and sample episodes will also become available.
Through Family Sharing, up to six family members will be able to share a subscription.
What is it?
Apple Podcasts Subscriptions is a new Apple Podcasts service that will bring early access, exclusive content and ad-free listening to subscribers, curated by creators.
As above, it won't arrive as a blanket subscription, but will instead offer listeners the option to subscribe to specific content creators, who will each determine their level of premium offering.
Apple says listeners will be able to enjoy premium subscriptions from independent creators, studios and media brands, including NPR, the LA Times, The Athletic, Sony Music Entertainment and more.
This doesn't mean you're going to have to pay for the podcasts you already know and love all of a sudden, mind – over a million of which are available for free via Apple’s dedicated Podcasts app – rather the service will be an optional extra for users.
Tim Cook also confirmed a new design is heading to the Podcasts app, with shows and episodes getting special pages, alongside the introduction of channels, which are groups of shows curated by creators with unique titles, descriptions and artwork.
Just as you can with shows, you’ll be able to browse free channels, which Apple says will make it easy to find more podcasts from your favorite creators, as well as paid channels that provide additional benefits for subscribers. The redesigned Apple Podcasts app will also feature an enhanced Search tab that provides quick access to Top Charts and categories.
These visual updates will arrive on the app via iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and macOS 11.3 software updates set to drop at the end of April.
What about the creators?
The move has excited members of the podcast creation community, with many seeing this a potentially dramatic shift in the podcast environment that could have ramifications on other providers.
"[Apple Podcast Subscriptions] could be as seismic as the App Store has been for indie game developers," said Pete Donaldson, creative director and founder of podcast creation studio Stakhanov. “It’s great to see Apple back at the [podcast] table in such a big way, offering a super easy way to support content creators.”
As well as offering an exciting new option for podcast listeners, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will now give creators the opportunity to build and distribute premium content.
The upcoming Apple Podcasts for Creators website will help creators learn more about podcasting, stay informed about the latest news and features and explore in-depth guides with best practices.
They’ll also be able to access an updated Apple Podcasts Connect dashboard, containing new features making it easier to manage shows on Apple Podcasts, including the ability to edit metadata, schedule and manage show availability, organize shows into channels, manage multiple users and learn how listeners are engaging with content through new performance metrics and visualization tools.
It’s from here that creators will be able enroll in the new Apple Podcasters Program – which will provide access to all the tools needed to build and distribute premium subscriptions on Apple Podcasts – for $19.99 (likely £19.99 / AU$25) per year.
Eagle-eyed Twitter users have dug into Apple's terms and conditions, though, and discovered that the company will keep 30% of creators' private podcast revenue if they decide to use the service, which will drop to 15% in their second year of enrolment.
That being said, this is the same commission scheme Apple already employs for its other subscription-based services.
Interestingly, Apple won’t require podcasters to create Apple-only exclusive shows, but the company does want creators to distinguish between the content streamed via Apple Podcasts and that which is streamed elsewhere – which suggests ad-free or content-heavier offerings will be available to those listening via Apple, rather than, say, Spotify.
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