Apple Might Launch an Audiobooks Service This Year

Apple Books logo

Apple may expand its media offering by launching an audiobooks service later this year according to a fascinating report in The Economist.  It certainly makes sense as at the company looks to attract more subscribers to individual services and the Apple One bundle.

Apple Audiobooks Service Might be on The Way

The tie-in between a potential new audiobooks service and the existing Books offering is obvious. The content could be built into the existing app and provide direct competition to Amazon-owned Audible. In the first episode of Media+ off 2022, I said how I would like to see Apple create more original podcasts. And I would. But a general audio expansion, including audiobooks, could be both beneficial to Apple (money) and users (staying within the existing Apple ecosystem to get the content).

TV+ Lags Behind Rivals on Content Spend and Subscriber Numbers

Elsewhere, the report highlighted that Apple is still paying significantly less for content than its key rivals. Apple spent US$2 billion in 2021, compared to US$9 billion from Amazon and US$14 billion from Netflix. According to data announced at CES 2022,  TV+ also still trails on user numbers. It had 20 million worldwide subscribers by the end of 2021 while Disney+ had 118 million, Amazon Prime Video had 175 million, and Netflix had a staggering 214 million.

However, the report also made the point that media acts as a great, albeit somewhat expensive, marketing tool. The company already has TV and movies from Oprah, Prince Harry, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks, as well as podcasts from Malala Yousafzai. All of this attracts (broadly) positive attention irrespective of the viewer and listener figures. That aspect has been overlooked by many (including myself).

Audio, Apple Expansion, And Competition Concerns

Apple does though have to be careful that any expansion does not trigger regulatory action, particularly if buying TV and film back catalogues. As Julia Alexander of Parrot Analytics told The Economist, “If you’re Apple and the FTC is looking at big tech, the last thing you want to do is make a huge acquisition.”

I wonder if regulators might actually welcome some greater competition in the audiobooks space though…

One thought on “Apple Might Launch an Audiobooks Service This Year

  • Charlotte:

    I think that the Economist is onto something. Apple do not appear to be playing the same game as their TV content rivals at all. 

    Rather, they appear to be taking a page from their own playbook and curating a premium brand with their TV content in much the same way they have successfully managed with their tech offerings. Indeed, what better way to utilise those premium devices than to consume premium content on that XDR Retina display, accompanied by spatial audio, eh? 

    Using their popular hits, Apple appear to be bootstrapping their way to acquiring a greater audience for other, lesser known premium content. They can afford the gradual trajectory in audience accrual. 

    I do think that Apple’s competition are, if you’ll pardon the pun, watching that space…with keen interest. 

    Regarding audio books, antitrust/anti-competition watchdogs no longer appear to think that Amazon ‘pees ginger ale’ or poops Swiss chocolate. They have no effective competition, and so long as Apple can avoid anything approaching price-fixing or any of the other objections currently circulating about their walled garden Stores, their foray into audio books should be welcomed. 

    Then again, one assumes sanity and reason can prevail in fraught times. 

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