Apple expands original podcasts investment as it hunts for compelling stories to adapt into TV+ shows

Apple expands original podcasts investment as it hunts for compelling stories to adapt into TV+ shows

Apple is continuing to invest in original podcast production. Bloomberg today reported that Apple has signed a deal with award-winning production company Futuro Studios.

Under the arrangement, Apple funds Futuro’s development of new podcasts but retains rights to the intellectual property to convert any of the works into video content — television shows and movies — for its streaming service Apple TV+.

This is a continuation of its podcasts strategy to date, which has seen Apple release a handful of Apple Original podcast series through its TV+ division. The original podcasts are available to listen in Apple Podcasts and any other podcast app via RSS feed.

This stands in stark contrast to Spotify’s moves in the podcasting space in recent years, which has paid hundreds of millions to acquire rights to top shows and make them exclusively available through the Spotify app.

Audio podcasts are a relatively cheap testing ground for story development. Rather than spending tens of millions on an unproven concept for TV+ upfront, Apple can produce a dozen or more podcasts for the price of a single episode of high-end television. If one of those podcasts is received well by listeners, Apple can use that as a signal to feel more confident in a TV or film order for the same story.

Going about it this way is significantly cheaper than having to acquire the adaptation rights for an established podcast from a publisher, as Apple retains the options upfront as part of the original production.

Standalone Apple Original Podcasts include ‘Missed Fortune’ (premiering next week), ‘Project Unabom’, ‘Run, Bambi Run’, ‘Hooked’ and more. However, none of those shows have announced a TV adaptation … so far. (Some other Apple Original Podcasts serve as companions to TV+ content, and were released simultaneously, such as the For All Mankind podcast.)

The Bloomberg report says Apple has spent about $10 million on standalone podcast production to date. For context, that is less than the production cost of a single episode of high-end premium streaming TV. Apple has surely already forked out more than that amount for licensing rights with Wondery alone, for Apple TV+ adaptations of The Shrink Next Door and WeCrashed.

This highlights just how cost-effective Apple’s content pipeline could be, if it can find a hit podcast worth making into a TV+ show.

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