In all seriousness, though, we do have a lot of presents for you today. Specifically: Three! exclusive! announcements! Also, if you don’t know me yet — hey! I’m Aria, Ashley’s Hot Pod sidekick. I publish mostly on Fridays for our Insider audience, which is another great reason to subscribe over there. I’m in for Ashley today, as she traverses the depths of hell, aka moves across NYC.
As of today, Apple has another big partner for its paid podcast channels: BBC Studios. And unlike other subscription products, which mostly offer perks like ad-free listening for existing audiences, this channel will give US and Canadian listeners access to shows that were previously only playable in the UK.
Here’s an example: The show 5 Minutes On already exists, but if you were to try to access the landing page from, say, your very American apartment in Philadelphia, you’d get an error message that says, “This content is not available in your location.” It also doesn’t show up on Spotify, Stitcher, etc. Through BBC Podcasts Premium on Apple Podcasts, paying Philadelphians (and Dallasites! and Montrealers!) will now be able to listen to 5 Minutes On and other shows like Nuremberg: The Trial of the Nazi War Criminals, which stars Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones.
BBC Studios is calling these previously localized programs “exclusives,” and there will be more coming soon. I’m also told we should also keep our eyes peeled for similar expansions in other countries. As a reminder, Apple’s podcast subscriptions are enabled worldwide.
Beyond these exclusives, BBC Podcasts Premium also offers ad-free versions of about a dozen other shows, which, as I said, is a common fixture of paid podcast channels… speaking of!
Slate expands audio-subscription offerings to Apple
Also coming atcha this morning, Slate launched its own Apple Podcasts Subscription. You could already pay for things like ad-free listening and bonus content through Slate Plus, which was hosted directly on the publication’s site, and which also bundled in features that were relevant to its written content, like unlimited access to articles. Now, consumers have the option to pay solely for Slate’s audio, which notably includes the popular podcast Slow Burn. In fact, I’m told that since the show has been such a big reason people have signed up for paid access before now, it was a no-brainer to launch the official Apple stream this week: Slow Burn’s newest season comes out tomorrow.
Amazon Music continues to make moves
Hi! It’s Ashley. I’m out today but had to deliver a little somethin’ for you all. Earlier today, I wrote about Amazon Music launching its first dedicated podcast feature: synchronized transcripts. You can read more about them here, but the broad thing to know is this feature is launching with select Wondery and Amazon Music shows, as well as some third-party programs like Crime Junkie and This American Life. You can scrub through transcripts like you do a video, so the words match up to the audio you’re hearing and allow you to jump around. Ads won’t be transcribed.
I have many thoughts on transcription, but namely want to know why this doesn’t exist in every app? Spotify announced transcripts for some of its shows earlier this year, but still, not every original or exclusive has them. Notably, Joe Rogan’s show has none, and I very much would appreciate being able to skim that show rather than committing hours. Obviously, transcripts should also be distributed for accessibility purposes. (Is this where I can rant about how wrong it is that many NYC subway stations don’t have elevators or escalators?)
Kintan Brahmbhatt, Amazon Music’s director of podcasts, also spoke with me about developing the platform and why Amazon hasn’t settled on a single release schedule for its shows. “We look at it as a 10-year story arc,” he said. “This is not like a one- or two-year ‘make a quick buck’ kind of thing for us. Amazon is in it for the very long term.” We’ll have more from the interview for Insiders on Thursday.
Now back to Aria, with a couple other things of interest today. Podcasts are increasingly becoming part of the lexicon, and these developments really show it.
A podcast on Broadway…
I poked around, just for you, to get more details about the recently announced Broadway adaptation of Closing the Distance, an audio drama that was produced and released during the pandemic. According to co-executive producer Valerie Smaldone, it will indeed be “the first and only Broadway play that began as an audio drama podcast.”
We’re entering a whole new world of derivative works, my friends. Books have long become movies, and even graffiti can inspire songs; now, it seems that podcasts have established themselves firmly enough to get adapted into not only TV series and live touring shows, but full-on professional plays. For what it’s worth, this is no accident: derivative works are the goal of The Audio Drama Initiative, the company that produced Closing the Distance and has a larger slate of, you guessed it, audio dramas. “We gauge how they resonate with an audience, and then see what medium — film, theatre, episodics — might be best to develop,” says Smaldone. Until now, though, that theatre option has been markedly untapped.
So who’s gonna go see it? And will you only go if Jason Alexander revives his audio role? Lmk.
…. and in my TV time
It felt odd and new and noteworthy for podcasting to so casually grace my screen, but it seems likely that this kind of thing will only get more common. At the same time, maybe it’s a red herring? Hulu is the maker of Only Murders in the Building, which is about loving true-crime podcasts. Another possibility: maybe only certain people get served this particular Grammarly ad (e.g., people who report on the podcast industry). I imagine it’s tricky to target based on ~plot~ but at the same time, all of the Bed, Bath & Beyond ads I’ve seen recently have had queer couples, which I take to mean that I’m not only being watched — I’m being seen.