The HBO Max team wants its app to not just be the place people find big movie premieres but podcasts, too. The company announced today that it’s planning to release its new Batman podcast, Batman: The Audio Adventures, as an in-app exclusive, meaning it won’t make its way to other podcasting apps or be available through an RSS feed. The scripted show, which features Jeffrey Wright as Batman and Rosario Dawson as Batwoman, will premiere this fall, although no exact date was provided.
In a chat with The Verge, Joshua Walker, chief strategy officer at HBO Max, says the decision to make Batman: The Audio Adventures exclusive has to do with the show being a scripted original series.
“For scripted originals our working theory now is that they should sit aside our other scripted original content exclusively within the HBO Max environment,” Walker says. “But because we’re early days on scripted original audio content we do look at this as something that we’ll learn from, and we’ll see how it develops over time as we go from here.”
The show won’t include ads and will be part of HBO Max subscribers’ included content. (It won’t cost extra to access the audio.)
Along with that news, HBO also announced other new, forthcoming podcasts including a scripted sequel to Issa Rae’s Looking For Latoya, called We Stay Looking, as well as a new OC companion podcast called Welcome to The OC, Bitches. Both of these will be available on HBO Max, with Walker declining to say definitively whether Looking For Latoya would be an exclusive or not, given that it’s a scripted original show.
It’s just unclear if anyone wants to listen to their podcasts on HBO Max
HBO is trying to turn its app into a destination for audio, as well as video, but making HBO Max the only place for Batman: The Audio Adventures is an interesting gamble. The app in its current form is clearly designed for video functionality, and right now, listening to a podcast in the app, like the Chernobyl companion show, requires users to search for it manually — there’s no dedicated podcast landing page. Also, locking your phone shuts off the podcast, and when open, the video player just keeps a static image on-screen advertising the ability to listen to the show on other podcast apps. It’s clearly not a fully built-out podcast experience. The team says it plans to allow for locked phone listening at some point, but didn’t commit to a date when that rollout might happen.
Still, the strategy behind the exclusivity decision appears to be trying to leverage valuable IP and star power to draw more people to the HBO Max app. It’s just unclear if anyone wants to listen to their podcasts there, especially if the experience isn’t comparable to actual podcasting apps.
At the same time, it’s easy to see why HBO wants to double down on audio. Its competitors, namely Netflix, have also become more invested in a more robust podcasting strategy. Netflix hired its first podcast executive, N’Jeri Eaton, previously of Apple Podcasts, last month and uses podcasting as a marketing tool to encourage more people to come to its video app and subscribe. The podcasts are available everywhere, though, presumably to reach people who aren’t already in the Netflix ecosystem.