The HBO Max team wants its app to be not only where people find major movie premieres, but also podcasts. The company announced today that it plans to release its new Batman podcast, Batman: The Audio Adventures, as an in-app exclusive, meaning it won’t make its way into other podcasting apps or be available via an RSS feed. The scripted show, which stars Jeffrey Wright as Batman and Rosario Dawson as Batwoman, will premiere this fall, though no exact date has been given.
In a conversation with The edgeJoshua Walker, chief strategy officer at HBO Max, said the decision to make: Batman: The Audio Adventures exclusive has to do with the show being an original scripted series.
“For scripted originals, our working theory now is that they should ignore our other scripted original content exclusively within the HBO Max environment,” Walker said. “But because we haven’t been into scripted original audio content for that long, we see this as something we’ll learn from, and see how it develops over time as we move forward.”
The show contains no ads and is part of HBO Max subscriber content. (It costs nothing extra to access the audio.)
Along with that news, HBO also announced other new upcoming podcasts, including a scripted sequel to Issa Rae’s Looking for Latoya, called We keep looking, as well as a new OC companion podcast called Welcome to The OC, Bitches. Both will be available on HBO Max, with Walker refusing to say definitively whether Looking for LaToya would be an exclusive show or not as it is an original show in a script.
HBO tries to turn its app into a destination for both audio and video, but makes HBO Max the only place for it Batman: The Audio Adventures is an interesting guess. The app in its current form is clearly designed for video functionality, and right now, listening to a podcast in the app, such as the Chernobyl companion show, requires users to manually search for it – there is no dedicated landing page for podcasts. Locking your phone also disables the podcast and when open, the video player only keeps a static image on the screen that advertises with the ability to listen to the show on other podcast apps. It’s clearly not a full-blown podcast experience. The team says it plans to allow locked phones at some point, but hasn’t committed to a date when that rollout could happen.
Still, the strategy behind the exclusivity decision seems to be trying to leverage valuable IP and star power to attract more people to the HBO Max app. It’s just unclear if anyone out there wants to listen to their podcasts, especially if the experience isn’t comparable to real 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 invested more in a more robust podcasting strategy. Netflix rented the first podcast manager, N’Jeri Eaton, formerly of Apple Podcasts, used podcasting as a marketing tool last month to encourage more people to come to the video app and subscribe. However, the podcasts are available everywhere, presumably to reach people who are not yet in the Netflix ecosystem.