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Luminary Taps Lena Dunham, Trevor Noah to Launch Podcasting Service

Startup aims to become Netflix of podcasting with $8 per month service

Podcasting startup Luminary Media has signed dozens of big names in both the entertainment and podcasting worlds — including “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, actor Russell Brand and “Girls” creator Lena Dunham — to spearhead its upcoming launch of an $8 per month service that offers ad-free content, the company said on Monday.

The plan for Luminary is as simple as it is daunting: it wants to reinvent the podcasting industry in the same way that Netflix has reinvented Hollywood.

Chief executive and co-founder Matt Sacks said so himself in the The New York Times: “We want to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming. I know how ambitious that sounds. We think it can be done, and some of the top creators in the space agree.”

To reach this goal, Luminary has lined up more than 40 creators to help launch its subscription service, Luminary Premium, this coming June. The service will include new shows from Noah, Dunham, “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown, along with two new shows from Conan O’Brien’s “Team Coco” production team and three new podcasts from Bill Simmons’ The Ringer Podcast Network.

Additionally, Luminary is bringing well-known existing podcasts exclusively to its network, including Brand’s “Under the Skin,” Michael Rapaport’s “I Am Rapaport: Stereo Podcast,” and Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson’s “Guys We F—-d.” Luminary has also signed proven podcast hosts Guy Raz from “How I Built This” and Adam Davidson of “Planet Money” to create new shows that’ll be featured on Premium.

Luminary’s strategy mirrors Netflix push into original content earlier this decade: Star-driven new shows that can only be found on its paid service. Just as Netflix capitalized on the cord-cutting of millennials and Gen Z — a trend it accelerated with compelling originals like “House of Cards”– Luminary is aiming to enter podcasting as the industry continues to grow. According to Pew Research Center, 17 percent of Americans ages 12 and older now listen to podcasts on a weekly basis — up from 7 percent in 2013 — and 26 percent listen on a monthly basis.

Still, it’s fair to question whether the subscription service will enjoy even a fraction of Netflix’s success. Most big-name podcasts are ad-supported, and the industry is expected to pull in $514 million in ad sales this year; that’s expected to increase to $659 million by the end of 2020, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC, as cited in the Times. It’ll be worth seeing if Luminary’s content slate will be compelling enough to make a dent in the ad-driven podcasting business.