Apple Podcasts Subscriptions are now live across more than 170 countries and regions, Apple announced this morning. First unveiled this spring, subscriptions allow listeners to unlock additional benefits for their favorite podcasts, including things like ad-free listening, early access to new episodes, bonus material, exclusives, or whatever else the podcast creator believes will be something their fans will pay for. Channels allow podcasters to group their shows however they like — for instance, to highlight a set of shows with a shared theme or offer different mixes of free and paid content.
The new subscription features were initially set to arrive in May, but Apple later emailed creators that the launch was pushed to June. This was likely due to a series of back-end issues impacting the service, including things like delayed episodes and malfunctioning analytics, among other things. At launch, Apple says thousands of subscriptions and channels are available, with more expected to arrive every week.
When listeners purchase a subscription to a show, they’ll automatically follow the performance in the redesigned Apple Podcasts app. The show’s page will also be updated with a Subscriber Edition label, so they’ll be able to more easily tell if they have access to the premium experience.
The Listen Now tab will expand with new rows that provide access to paid subscriptions, including their available channels. In the app, users can discover tracks from show pages and search, browse through recommendations from the Listen Now and Browse tabs, and share channels with friends through Messages, Mail, and other apps. Apple’s delay to invest in the Podcasts market has given its rivals a head start on growing their own audience for podcasts. For example, at the spring announcement of subscriptions, an industry report suggested that Spotify’s podcast listeners would top Apple’s for the first time in 2021.