Tag Archives: Luminary

Luminary Expanded Service to South Africa, Ireland, and New Zealand

Luminary Media announced that it has expanded service to three new countries, bringing its original content to South Africa, Ireland, and New Zealand listeners. This move will double the number of international locations where Luminary is offered (currently CA, UK, AU) and will expand its reach to Africa for the first time.

“We are proud to offer original content from our talented creators to South Africa, Ireland, and New Zealand, where podcast listenership continues to rapidly grow. With Trevor Noah, Celeste Barber, and Russell Brand, the Luminary network is offering quality content that we know listeners in these countries will want to hear,” said Luminary CEO Simon Sutton.

“We are particularly proud to bring Trevor Noah’s show to his home in South Africa, where there has been high demand for access to his important and insightful conversations” said Matt Sacks, Luminary Founder and Executive Chairman.

Each of the three countries is seeing strong growth in podcast listenership, with more than 4 million monthly podcast listeners across the countries based on estimates from Reuters. Luminary offers all listeners a seven-day free trial of Luminary Premium. After the free trial, subscription price will be: Ireland (Monthly: €4.99/mo, Annual: €34.99), South Africa (Monthly: R34.99/mo, Annual: R249.99), and New Zealand (Monthly: NZ$7.99/mo. Annual: NZ$58.99). Luminary began to go live in these countries the week of February 17th.

Luminary Welcomes Richard Plepler to Board of Directors

Luminary Media has announced that Richard Plepler, founder of Eden Productions and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HBO, has joined Luminary’s Board of Directors. The company plans to make additional board announcements soon.

“Under Richard’s leadership, HBO set the gold standard for quality, bringing premium content across genres. I’ve seen firsthand Richard’s invaluable impact on a premium content business, and we welcome his strategic partnership as we endeavor to support creators, curate content for listeners, and drive Luminary’s business forward,” said Luminary CEO Simon Sutton.

“Podcasting has become such an exciting and dynamic medium for great storytelling,” said Plepler. “Luminary’s vision as a jewel box of premium podcast content where creators are enabled to do their best work and subscribers can consistently discover quality will make it easier for consumers to navigate an incredibly crowded space. I am thrilled to join the board, partner with Simon and the Luminary team, and help realize this vision.”

“Richard pioneered the concept of ‘curated excellence,’ and his deep content expertise aligns perfectly with Luminary’s approach to world-class talent like Trevor Noah, Lena Dunham, and Leon Neyfakh, as well as Luminary’s business model. We are fortunate to have him on the team,” said Matt Sacks, Luminary Founder and Executive Chairman.

Richard Plepler most recently served as Chairman and CEO of Home Box Office, Inc. (HBO), a position he held from 2013- 2019, culminating 28 years at the company. Prior, Plepler was the Co-President of HBO from 2007 – 2012. Earlier this month, Plepler announced the creation of Eden Productions, a film and television production company with a five-year exclusive deal with Apple TV+.

Luminary Now Offers an Annual Plan

If you were interested in getting one of Luminary’s Plans, but didn’t quite have the money for it before – now may be your chance. They have lowered the price of their Monthly Plan and have created an Annual plan.

Luminary’s Monthly Plan is $4.99/month after the 7-day free trial ends. Those who select this plan will be auto-billed monthly. You can cancel at any time. HotPod reported that the price of the Monthly Plan used to be $7.99.

Luminary’s brand new Annual Plan is $2.99/month after the 7-day free trial is over. Those who select this plan will be auto-billed annually. The first year will cost $34.99.

Those who aren’t interested in either of those two plans can continue with the free limited account. The free plan allows you to access 500,000+ shows you already listen to and love. You also get personalized recommendations that learn your listening style. The free plan includes ads

Some have asked Luminary why they are hearing ads if they are subscribed to a Premium plan. Luminary explains that you are hearing advertising in widely available podcasts that are available to all users of the Luminary app. According to Luminary, the advertising is controlled by the creators of the podcasts.

Luminary Welcomes Simon Sutton as Chief Executive Officer

Luminary Media announced that Simon Sutton, former President and Chief Revenue Officer of HBO, has joined Luminary as CEO. Matt Sacks, who founded Luminary in 2018, will serve as Executive Chairman of Luminary.

This comes after a series of personnel changes at Luminary. The company debuted in April of 2019. In August of 2019, co-founder Joe Purzycki stepped down as Chief Strategy Officer. Luminary replaced Joe Purzycki with Jeff Saunders, who is now Luminary’s Chief Product Officer. Previously, Jeff Saunders was the VP of Product and Technology at Jet.com.

“It is hard to imagine a more perfect, positive, and transformative development for Luminary,” Sacks said. “Simon is a seasoned media executive who at one point or another ran every functional area of one of the most successful subscription content businesses in the world, consistently growing subscribers, revenue, and profit.”

In addition to successfully recruiting Sutton, Luminary also announced that it had raised an additional $30 million in the first closing of a Series C financing from existing and new investors.

Luminary was founded by Matt Sacks in 2018 with backing from NEA. NEA is a global venture capital fund with $20 billion in assets under management, where Sacks previously was a Principle focused on consumer internet investments.

Sutton’s deep expertise aligns perfectly with Luminary’s approach to world-class talent like Trevor Noah, Conan O’Brian’s Team Coco, Lena Dunham, and Leon Neyfakh, as well as Luminary’s business model.

Luminary’s Co-Founder Stepped Down

Earlier this month, The Verge reported that Luminary has been going through some changes. Luminary debuted in April of 2019. Two months after that launch, co-founder Joe Purzycki stepped down as chief strategy officer.

Luminary replaced Joe Purzycki with Jeff Saunders, who is now Luminary’s chief product officer. Previously, Jeff Saunders was the VP of product and technology at Jet.com.

Luminary has gotten itself into a bit of controversy in part by not making what they were doing absolutely clear. In April of this year, Podnews reported that Luminary had been running a proxy server for podcasts, breaking podcast analytics and making dynamic ad insertion difficult.

Podnews also stated that Luminary had been criticized for removing links in show notes, including the removal of donation links, and truncating show notes. According to Podnews, Luminary also removed all main website links for podcasts and was incorrectly crediting show creators. The Verge points out that both of those issues have since been fixed.

The Verge also noted that canceling a Luminary subscription is a confusing process. People who have tried to delete their accounts discovered that Luminary requires them to switch to a free account. This means that people who no longer want a Luminary account are forced to still have an account – one that does not give them access to Luminary’s exclusive shows.

Personally, I find that Luminary’s decision to prevent people from being able to entirely leave Luminary troubling. Healthy companies allow disgruntled customers to separate when they choose to. It is especially disturbing from a company that started adding podcasts to its platform without asking the podcasters for permission to do so.

Luminary is Having Problems

Luminary is getting a lot of attention right now, and most of does not reflect favorably on the premium podcast app. It is going to have to work really hard to change the minds of podcast creators who are skeptical about Luminary.

One big problem with Luminary is that it added a bunch of podcasts to its app without asking permission of the podcast creators. While Luminary is not the first to do this, it should have known better.

The philosophy of “its better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission” is sketchy, and makes podcasters angry. If your podcast is on Luminary, and you don’t want it to be there, you have to give Luminary a bunch of information before they will remove it.

Another thing that bothered podcasters about Luminary is that it appeared to be re-hosting the podcasts that were included in their app. Marco Arment tweeted “Luminary’s responding in this thread, claiming (I think) that they’re proxying, not caching – still re-serving, but making a new request to the publishers’ servers for each request. If so, that’s still a copyright issue and still breaks most stats, which de-dube by request IP.”

Later on April 25, 2019, Marco Arment tweeted: “Confirmed, the @hearluminary podcast-masking proxy URL’s are now serving HTTP 302 redirects. Glad they responded quickly. Should’ve been done properly from the start, but at least they fixed it. If they don’t pull any more proxying shenanigans, I’d consider this resolved.”

Podnews reported on April 26, 2019:

It emerges that Luminary has, since launch on Apr 23, been running a proxy server for podcasts: breaking podcast analytics and making dynamic ad insertion difficult. Our site logs showed that they were using a service from Cloudflare. The company said in a statement yesterday that they have stopped doing this: we’ve confirmed the removal on web, on Android, and it also looks to have been removed from iPhone. We explain what a proxy server is, and why it matters for podcasts.

Podnews also reported:

Luminary is also being criticized for removing links in show notes, including the removal of donation links and truncating show notes; the company also removes all main website links for podcasts, and the company is incorrectly crediting show creators, too, using the itunes:owner instead of itunes:author data from the RSS feed.

The Verge reported that a Luminary spokesperson says the company is hopeful that it will soon be able to offer The Daily (a podcast from The New York Times). The Verge also reported that Luminary is in conversations with Anchor, “but Luminary doesn’t appear to have made progress yet in being able to distribute Spotify’s core collection of hit series like Reply All.” In addition, Gimlet Media’s Homecoming will not be on Luminary.

HotPod reported that The Joe Rogan Experience requested to be removed from the Luminary platform. The reason, according to Joe Rogan’s team, was: “There was not a license agreement or permission for Luminary to have The Joe Rogan Experience on their platform. His reps were surprised to see the show there today and requested it be removed.”

For what it’s worth, Luminary tweeted information that it wanted to share. The tweet said: “We heard your concerns this morning and would like to share some information with you about #Luminary.” The tweet includes an image filled with words in which Luminary explains how their technology works. It includes: “To be clear, Luminary has never hosted or cashed audio content for any open RSS feed podcast.”

Luminary also tweeted a response to Podnews: “Hey @podnews, let’s have a constructive conversation without allegations of bad faith. Our response is below.”

The tweet includes an image filled with bullet-points including: “Luminary has in fact had publishers ask not to be included on our free tier. However, Luminary has numerous publishers who want to be on our free tier, including many who reached out proactively voicing support, asking to be included, or reversing decisions after gathering facts.”

Luminary Wants to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Luminary is a podcast app where people can listen to podcasts that they know and love for free. It also offers a Premium service that is ad free and that gives listeners access to over 40 exclusive podcasts. It is coming soon to web, iOS and Android.

At the time I am writing this post, Luminary has yet to launch. Those who want to be the first to know when it launches can give Luminary their email address.

The New York Times says that Luminary is set to arrive by June of 2019, and that it will focus on subscriptions. The Premium subscription costs $8 a month.

“We want to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming,” Matt Sacks, Luminary’s co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview. “I know how ambitious that sounds. We think it can be done, and some of the top creators in the space agree.”

According to The New York Times, Luminary is offering large upfront payment guarantees to creators, in exchange for exclusive rights to distribute their work. Luminary will also pay creators bonuses if their shows reach certain listening thresholds.

Obviously, podcast creators who choose to post their work exclusively on Luminary lose the right to post their shows anywhere else. Individual podcasters will have to decide for themselves whether the risk of limiting their listeners to those who use the Luminary app is worth the amount of money they might receive for doing so.