Spotify launches video podcasts worldwide, starting with select creators

Sarah Perez
London, UK - July 31, 2018: The buttons of the music streaming app Spotify, surrounded by Podcasts, Apple Music, Facebook and other apps on the screen of an iPhone.

Spotify today announced the global launch of video podcasts. The new feature at launch will allow users, including both free users and paid subscribers, to watch the video content from a select group of creator podcasts. But unlike on YouTube, where only paid subscribers can listen to YouTube video content in the background while they do other things on their device, Spotify says its users will be able to seamlessly move between the video version and the audio. When multitasking, audio content will continue to play in the background, as you use other apps or even if you lock your phone.

The video podcasts are supported on both the desktop and mobile app -- and video will serve as an additional component, not a replacement for the audio. That means you'll still be able to stream the audio or download the podcast for offline listening, if need be.

For creators, the launch of video podcasts represents an opportunity to grow their audience, says Spotify. Often, podcasts already have a video option -- but until now, Spotify offered no way for creators to share it on its platform. That meant podcast creators would distribute their audio podcast on Spotify and other podcast distribution services, but would publish their videos to YouTube. They may continue to do, of course -- especially if they've built a YouTube fan base for their work and no deal prevents it.

But being able to publish directly on Spotify means creators will be able to connect more directly with podcast listeners, rather than having to compete on a broader platform that pits their shows against a wide variety of other content. Video also gives Spotify a new place to sell advertising, but the company declined to comment on its ad strategy, saying it was still in the "early stages" of its video efforts.

Only a handful of podcasts are offered starting today, including Book of Basketball 2.0, Fantasy Footballers, The Misfits Podcast, H3 PodcastThe Morning ToastHigher Learning with Van Lathan & Rachel Lindsay and The Rooster Teeth Podcast. These are only available in the markets where podcasts are already supported, Spotify says.

These podcasts include a combination of originals, exclusives and third-party podcasts. Their creators are the only ones that today have the ability to upload their own video content. In the future, Spotify will continue to expand the feature.

The company's move into video was almost inevitable. In February, Spotify acquired The Ringer to boost its podcast sports content. The deal came with a YouTube-based video operation, which signaled an interest in an expanded media footprint.

Spotify has since inked high-profile podcast deals that could also easily translate to video, too, including one with Warner Bros. focused on DC superheros, which Spotify said in June could later include "new programming from original intellectual property." It also landed an exclusive deal with Kim Kardashian West, The WSJ reported last month. It brought The Joe Rogan Experience in-house, in yet another exclusive. And just yesterday, Spotify booked a podcast deal with TikTok star Addison Rae.

Spotify didn't announce video plans in these areas today, but it definitely has access to talent -- and offering video could allow it to better negotiate future deals, as well.

Spotify was spotted testing video podcasts earlier this year, but it was with YouTube stars Zane Hijazi and Heath Hussar, of Zane and Heath: Unfiltered, who weren't mentioned in today's news announcement.

Video podcasts will begin rolling out today in supported markets. So you may not see the addition immediately, but should soon.