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…