Audible has been in the audio-content biz for more than 20 years. Now, amid the recent podcast explosion, the Amazon-owned premium audio storytelling platform is aggressively investing in original and exclusive content — including a burgeoning slate from high-profile Hollywood talent.

On the latest episode of Variety’s “Strictly Business” podcast — it’s a meta podcast about podcasts! — Rachel Ghiazza, EVP, and head of U.S. content at Audible, discusses the company’s strategy amid a flurry of new competition. Unlike free, ad-supported podcast players, Audible’s model is primarily geared around subscriptions and a la carte sales.

“We approach content differently than other services,” Ghiazza says. There tends to be a bright line between audiobooks and podcasts in the market, she says. But in Audible’s case, it is developing and acquiring content across a spectrum of formats, “And in order to do that, right, we need to have models that really allow us to reach customers in different ways.” Ghiazza says Audible is exploring ad-supported distribution models, after launching an ad-based tier in India.

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On the originals front, Ghiazza oversees the Audible Studios team, which is building out a lineup of programming featuring a laundry list of A-listers. Those include Elizabeth Banks, Yo-Yo Ma, Lena Waithe, Queen Latifah, Laura Dern, Kenya Barris, Conan O’Brien, Steph Curry (through his Unanimous Media), Kevin Hart, Charlamagne Tha God, Deepak Chopra, and SpringHill Co., founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter.

Audible’s recent Hollywood deals also include an exclusive pact with Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street banner for three scripted originals, including “Prophecy” — a Biblical-themed supernatural drama starring Washington, Laurence Fishburne and Daniel Dae Kim.

“What we’ve really focused on, what we care the most about is great talent — great talent that has extraordinary storytelling,” says Ghiazza.

But in addition to its deals with “high-profile, high-impact talent” like Washington, Dern or Barris, Audible is equally focused on emerging creators who are “on the cusp of breaking out,” Ghiazza says. Audible has a department focused on “who are the people who are telling things that need to be heard, and how do we help elevate those voices.”

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Audible’s best-selling titles to date have been the first two installments of “The Sandman” from Neil Gaiman, adapted from his graphic novels, featuring James McAvoy voicing the title role. A third “act” in the series is slated to premiere in 2022.

“You have this comic book that so many people have connected to for so long in their lives, that seeing it come to life in other forms, you have to be able to manage through staying true to that story,” Ghiazza says. “And this is a really great area to showcase how audio can do that for people.” She credits Gaiman’s deep involvement and the adaptation by Dirk Maggs as key for the success of “The Sandman” series.

Today, Audible hosts more than 675,000 audio programs from audiobook publishers, broadcasters, magazine and newspaper publishers, and other partners.

Ghiazza joined Audible in April 2019 as SVP for content acquisition and development and was named head of U.S. content in 2020. Prior to Audible, she spent more than five years at Spotify, where she held a variety of roles including leading the global content experiences team. Ghiazza also held senior roles on content teams at Viacom and Yahoo.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be access on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.