It's confirmed: as we reported ahead of the announcement, Apple is launching a paid-for podcasts subscription service.

Indeed, one of the first things announced at Apple's Spring Loaded event last night was a brand-new version of the Podcasts app. In addition to a new look, it brings support for channels (which Apple describes as "groups of shows curated by creators with unique titles, descriptions, and artwork"), recommendations and the ability to pay for exclusive podcasts and other benefits.

Signing up for a premium subscription could remove adverts, for example, add extra content, or give you early access to new series.

The new payment service will be offered in 170 countries and territories from next month. The updated Podcasts app will come as part of the highly anticipated iOS 14.5 software update, which is expected to launch imminently.

The addition of paid-for subscription tiers explains why Apple changed the terminology for free podcasts back in March: it decided that users would 'follow' rather than 'subscribe' to podcasts.

Here's how we reported the rumour ahead of the event:

As rumoured back in January 2021, Apple could be about to launch a subscription service for exclusive podcasts.

Back in January this rumour came from the usually accurate The Information. Now Vox Media’s Peter Kafka has indicated that Apple may unveil its new payment service for exclusive podcasts at the Apple Event on 20 April.

The move could help Apple meet the increasingly fierce competition from companies such as Spotify, SiriusXM and Amazon.

One benefit of Apple's podcasts service will be ad-free podcasts (if you disregard any surreptitious advertising for the company's gadgets and services), something that many listeners will appreciate.

Loup Ventures also reported in January 2021 that Apple intends to launch several new plus services in the coming years including 'Podcasts Plus' which seems likely to be the name of the new service.

Amidst the offering we may see podcasts about the movies and TV series on Apple TV+. Apple already offers a companion podcasts to For All Mankind, for example. Read about all the shows on - and coming to - Apple TV+.

This article originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation by Karen Haslam.