Rishi Malhotra has been tapped to lead Luminary as the subscription audio platform’s new CEO. In his new role, Malhotra, the founder and former CEO of the Indian online music streaming service JioSaavn, will reposition the company around a few key areas of content, bolstering Luminary’s sports, music and comedy programming.

Malhotra replaces Simon Sutton, the former HBO president who joined the company two and a half years ago. Sutton will remain on Luminary’s board of directors.

In addition, Luminary announced that Dave Chapelle’s Pilot Boy Productions has invested in Luminary. Pilot Boy will also join Luminary’s board of directors with its seat filled by Ben Jealous, a civil rights leader and investor who is a longtime friend of Chapelle. Two additional new members will also join Jealous on Luminary’s board — Heather Hiles, managing partner at Black Ops Ventures, a VC fund built to invest in tech startups founded exclusively by Black entrepreneurs, and Mara Buxbam, president of ID, one of the entertainment industry’s leading publicity and communications firms.

Since launching in 2018 as kind of “Netflix of podcasts,” Luminary has partnered with a number of big names, including Chappelle, Roxane Gay, Russell Brand, Lena Dunham, Guy Raz, yasiin bey (formerly known as Mos Def) and Talib Kweli. Along with bey and Kweli, Chapelle is a creator and executive producer of Luminary original “The Midnight Miracle,” and he also executive produces additional audio content at Luminary.

“I chose Luminary because they value artists and share my vision for re-imagining audio content,” Chappelle said in a statement. “‘The Midnight Miracle’ and our unique format is changing the podcast experience. At Luminary, we are creating an authentic space for inspired artists to develop and share their original content.”

Chappelle has inspired a devoted following with his standup comedy and through the satirical comedy sketch series “Chappelle’s Show,” but he was also the subject of a recent controversy. Comments he made in the recent Netflix special “The Closer” were seen as transphobic and met with backlash from the transgender community and its supporters.

Asked if the controversy gave the company pause about aligning with Chappelle, Matt Sacks, Luminary executive chairman, answered, “Dave is one of the greatest comedians and cultural commentators of all time and we’re glad he chose us to be his home for audio content.”

Malhotra says he was inspired to join Luminary because he is a believer in the company’s subscription model and believes that the content it fosters can inspire other forms of entertainment. A former VP at HBO, Malhotra remembered that he once asked “The Wire” creator David Simon about why he wanted to work for the premium cable channel. Simon told him that he wasn’t interested in selling “cars or soaps,” which he would need to do on ad-supported broadcast channels. Instead, he wanted to focus on crafting the best story.

“I really believe in a subscription model,” Malhotra said. “It allows artists to be as free as they want to be.”

“We want to invite more artists and subscribers into our ecosystem,” he added. “And we can take the work they produce and transfer it to fan commerce, take it into intellectual property, take it into NFTs in ways that are related to the core content. Artists want that and audiences want that.”

Subscription models have become increasingly popular across the media landscape. Luminary’s cost an average of $34.99 annually with an audience base that is roughly evenly divided between men and women. It tends to attract higher-income users, according to the company. But the pandemic era has challenged and reconfigured Luminary’s business.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw podcast listening fall off a cliff,” Sacks said. “People weren’t commuting, but by the end of the summer of 2020 podcast listening exploded. More people were commuting, but what really happened was people figured out different ways for podcasting to fit into their life. Maybe that was going to the gym or going for a walk or listening to them while they made dinner, but the relationship changed.”