Airbnb has a surprisingly good reason to join the streaming wars

Not another one.
Not another one.
Image: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters
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Airbnb might be the latest company to join the streaming wars, according to a report from Reuters that says the home-sharing platform has ambitions to create a studio that develops original programming, including shows and films.

The company would join the ranks of Apple, Disney, and even Walmart, all of which have also announced plans to create original content for their respective streaming platforms, in taking on current streaming original-content leaders Netflix and Amazon. Airbnb is privately valued at $31 billion and is gearing up for an IPO next year.

In a statement to Quartz, Airbnb’s chief policy and communications executive, Chris Lehane, said that the company is currently “in the R+D phase,” adding that it’s “not looking to create a traditional 20th century model” and is “focused on finding and supporting the kind of tastemaker content—like the Airbnb Magazine—that is consistent with our mission of belonging.”

Airbnb hasn’t taken any actions that would help clarify what it means by this corporate-speak, but an anonymous source told Reuters that CEO Brian Chesky wants the company to be “travel-everything.” And indeed, it seems like focusing on travel programming specifically would be a natural move for the company, and perhaps help sway skeptics that have ethical concerns about its relationship with locals, or safety concerns about staying in strangers’ homes. What’s more, there seems to an audience for travel programming, considering the success of the late Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN and Netflix, and the development of standalone networks like the Travel Channel.

Airbnb is not new to content creation. The magazine referenced by Lehane has been published by Hearst since 2017, and is a “collaborative effort” between the publisher and the hospitality company, according to Hearst. Additionally, Airbnb announced just last week that a documentary it funded, developed, and produced called Gay Chorus Deep South, is set to premiere at next week’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The company also did work—although it’s unclear what kind, exactly—on a travel and real estate docuseries called Home, set to run on Apple’s recently announced streaming service.

Creating original content and “storytelling” is a popular branding strategy, with companies from Tinder to WeWork producing original video and editorial content as a way to market their brands. If anything, Airbnb’s content play could help the company build its 500 million-strong user base and help further differentiate it from competitors like Booking.com and Expedia.

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