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Apple Ramps Up Its In-House Podcasting Efforts With Studio Deal

·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., stepping up its spending on original podcasts, signed an agreement with a Pulitzer Prize-winning studio and is holding talks with other companies about additional deals.

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The iPhone maker is looking to add original content to its Podcasts app that it hopes could eventually turn into shows on its Apple TV+ service. The deal — an agreement with Futuro Studios, the maker of the criminal-justice series “Suave” — will fund development and production of podcasts, according to people familiar with the situation. In exchange, Apple will have the first chance to turn any podcast into a film or TV show.

The company has discussed similar arrangements with other studios and spent up to $10 million on the push so far, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Apple has already announced podcasts with At Will Media, Campside Media, Jigsaw Productions and Pineapple Street Studios.

Apple and Futuro declined to comment.

The investments have been led by Apple’s TV studio, rather than its podcast division. Despite being one of the biggest distributors of audio in the world, the company’s podcasting unit has avoided funding individual shows or buying networks because it wants to be seen as a neutral platform.Apple has already financed Jigsaw’s “The Line,” an award-winning podcast about Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, as well as Campside’s “Hooked,” a nine-part series about an engineer who turns into a bank robber. Most of Apple’s in-house podcasts have been tied in one way or another to its TV shows. That includes companion podcasts for series like “For All Mankind” and “The Problem With Jon Stewart.”None of the audio shows feature advertising yet, and they’ve primarily served as marketing tools for a video series — or to gauge interest in the material.

Apple TV+, which launched in 2019, also has adapted shows from existing podcasts. It turned “The Shrink Next Door” into a series with Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell. “WeCrashed,” based on the WeWork Inc. saga, starred Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway. Both podcasts were originally produced by Wondery, now part of Amazon.com Inc.

Apple hasn’t pumped nearly as much money into original podcasts as Amazon and Spotify Technology SA, which have each spent more than $1 billion acquiring companies and programming. Spotify, Apple’s rival in music streaming, has made some of the most popular podcasts in the world exclusive to its service and thus unavailable to the competition.

Apple isn’t taking that approach, but its foray into the industry is a welcome sign for podcast producers seeking funding. With other companies tightening their budgets, investments in audio shows have begun to slow in recent months. Radio networks such as IHeartMedia Inc. and Audacy Inc., which have been major financiers of original audio, have pulled back as their ad growth softens and stock prices slip.

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