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Amazon opens the IP tap for its Audible to Prime Video pipeline — your move, Apple

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Photo of Rutger Rosenborg
by Rutger Rosenborg

Marvel proved that spinning out intellectual property (IP) from comic books to movie franchises could be incredibly lucrative. With the growth of video games, this transmedia strategy has expanded to streaming video on demand (SVOD) with successes like The Last of Us on HBO Max and, most recently, Fallout on Amazon Prime Video. 

Using existing IP to create new movies and shows is one way that companies cut down on the costs involved with creating new stories while also tapping into an already existing audience base. However, it requires a significant investment in researching, discovering, acquiring, developing, and adapting the IP from existing copyright owners. What if there was a way to simplify this process, creating your own pipeline of IP that you could tap into virtually at will? With Audible, Amazon may be trying to create precisely that: a one-stop shop for transmedia IP adaptation.

Audible is an IP factory for Amazon

Podcasts being adapted into television series may still be a relatively nascent trend, but it is not without precedent. 20+ podcasts have been adapted to television over the past few years as podcasts follow in the footsteps of TV and film. So far, these adaptations have come as a result of independent podcast studios pitching to television and film studios. However, Amazon has seen the potential in controlling the pipeline for the past few years. Dirty John, a Wondery podcast first released in 2017, was developed into a successful Bravo and Netflix true crime television series in 2018. By 2020, Amazon had purchased Wondery for $300 million. 

Now, Amazon is leaning into its strategic efforts to own the means of transmedia production by having its subsidiaries work together to take podcast IP to the screen. Audible will co-develop and co-produce podcasts and audiobooks with Amazon MGM Studios, which both can then take to Prime Video. So far, the slate of titles sits at nine, which is almost half of the number of podcast adaptations that have been made in total over the past six years. By having IP development, production, and distribution all in-house, Amazon is doing what it does best: consolidation.

Can Apple follow suit?

Amazon benefits from ownership of a podcast platform (two, in fact), a podcast network, a television production company, and a streaming video on demand platform — not to mention an enormous e-commerce store for selling merch — all under its umbrella. Amazon’s main competitors in podcasting — Google, Spotify, and Apple — may have some of those things, but none has the direct pipeline from audio to screen, except maybe Apple.

Apple may have been the first mover in podcasting, but, as MIDiA’s podcast forecasts demonstrate, market share has been declining fast. Making up that ground, especially given Spotify and YouTube’s domination of the market, will be difficult. However, Apple’s media portfolio, which includes Apple TV+ and Apple Studios, offers the company an important opportunity to gain lost ground — especially against their most immediate competitor: Amazon. Apple already has a podcast platform; now they just need to close the consolidation loop with IP ownership, and that will likely require the right podcast network.

As an additional benefit of vertically integrating the content pipeline, Amazon is not just able to pluck successful podcasts out to be TV shows; it can also test potential TV shows as podcasts (which is much cheaper than testing an entire show), see how they perform, and decide what shows to greenlight from there. Your move, Apple.

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