For $7.95 a month, Audible Plus will offer subscribers access to more than 11,000 titles spanning 68,000 hours. The existing entry-level subscription plan, costing $14.95, will stay at that price point under the new name Audible Premium Plus. Subscribers to the Premium Plus tier get one credit per month, which can be used to download any piece of content outside the Plus catalog, regardless of price or length.
Audible Plus fare can be streamed or downloaded for offline listening, but subscribers lose access to downloads if they cancel. Programs bought with Premium Plus credit, on the other hand, remain listenable even if a subscriber pulls the plug.
Existing customers can preview Audible Plus as of today, with new customers being able to get an early look starting on Thursday. The preview period for the two offerings is expected to last for the next several weeks as the company gathers customer feedback and fine-tunes the technology supporting the platforms.
Rachel Ghiazza, EVP and Head of U.S. Content for Audible, said the lower-priced tier had been in the works before COVID-19 upended production cycles, listening patterns and subscription trends. Audible has seen increasing competition from a range of players in the growing audio space, including Spotify, Apple and Luminary, among others. While video streaming has skyrocketed during the pandemic, podcast listening dropped in the spring across the board before recovering in the summer. Along with a resurgence of listening, the hours are more evenly spread out. “Every day now looks like the weekend,” Spotify declared in a July blog about its second-quarter results.
In an interview with Deadline, Ghiazza said audio is still in what she called a “magical moment” and a “renaissance,” with production able to continue despite the coronavirus. The broadening of the subscriber offering aims to widen access to a growing roster of originals. Projects have come from talent like Common, St. Vincent, Blake Griffin, Tom Morello, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kate Mara, Tayari Jones and Harvey Fierstein. One signature offering that Ghiazza said points to the possibilities of audio is Jesse Eisenberg’s When You Finish Saving the World, a hybrid, five-hour production that has a film adaptation in the works starring Julianne Moore.
“We were able to respond to everything that’s been going on,” Ghiazza said. “Projects have been completely built and completed during the pandemic.”
One example is Yard Work, which debuts August 31. Written by David Koepp, whose film credits include Spider-man and Jurassic Park, the horror novella is performed by Kevin Bacon. Its plot concerns an elderly widower battling an invasive vine on the property of his lakeside cabin.
Audible has not broken out subscriber numbers and Ghiazza declined to offer any insights into patterns of sign-ups or listening, other than noting that the company “looked at a lot of the data” in preparing to launch Audible Plus.
Here is a rundown of previously unannounced titles coming to Audible Plus in the coming weeks, with release dates and descriptions furnished by Audible:
Beyond the Last Dance (out August 31) – From the NBA, Audible, and Pushkin Industries, a podcast exploring the continuing impact of Michael Jordan’s last championship run with the Chicago Bulls, featuring unheard audio from The Last Dance TV series with new interviews and audio archives that have never been heard by the public.
Heist with Michael Caine (performed by Michael Caine, August 31) – From the largest bank burglary in American history, to the world’s most audacious book heist, Heist With Michael Caine travels to America, Australia, Stockholm, Antwerp and everywhere in-between to tell true stories that have inspired some of Hollywood’s most-famous heist films.
My Dad The Spy (August 31) – This intimate, emotive, and revealing documentary series explores the complicated relationship between father (Miles Copeland, America’s most public spy, who was responsible for destabilizing political regimes across the Middle East and Africa in 1950s-70s) and son (Stewart Copeland, founder and drummer of The Police). [releasing 8/31]
You Are A Comedy Special – A 15-Step Self-Help Guide to Forcibly Force Yourself to Write and Perform a Full Hour of Stand-Up Comedy (August – Part comedic memoir and part motivational life coaching session, Maria Bamford’s first Audible Original is honest, inspirational, and hilarious. Framed around how to construct a stand-up special, it’s really a guide for how to beat procrastination and unlock creative potential.
The Getaway (performed by Kate Mara, August 31)) – In this short-form thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, a young woman’s dream getaway becomes her worst nightmare.
Donor 9623 (August 31) – This fascinating audio documentary chronicles the fallout from a rogue donor whose fathered at least 34 children. Billed as a high-achieving Ph.D. student, DONOR 9623 turned out to have a dark history no one suspected.
Murder by Other Means (Written by John Scalzi, performed by Zachary Quinto, September 10) – Dispatcher Tony Valdez discovers that people around him are dying, for reasons that make no sense…and which just may implicate him. [releasing September 10]
Night Magick (created by award-winning author Suri Rosen and performed by Josh Gad, October 1) – In the strange land of Las Vegas, a boy learns magic is real, and that the magician he idolizes has stolen an important book from his father. An adventure to get it back leads him to some unlikely sources.