Almighty Pod

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Podcasting is big. Following several years of huge sector growth in the US, 2017 saw a surge in the popularity of podcasts – on-demand audio shows – around the world. 

There is a massive global audience and a mass of content from all genres. Apple Podcasts, just one of the available sources, features more than 500,000 in more than 100 languages. this busy and growing market presents a major opportunity for TV producers and broadcasters. 

Brands are already exploiting the medium to their advantage. If you’re a bank, commissioning a podcast drama series to disseminate smart financial thinking is part of your market mix. If you’re a daily newspaper, a weekly podcasted hosted by your entertainment columnist, featuring interviews with amazing guests, is a clear way to deliver your audience exclusive, additional content. If you’re a publisher, producing a monthly magazine-branded podcast as a series of iconic interviews promotes the magazine and its values to a global audience. But what of the TV opportunities?

HBO and Amazon have been proactively looking at the podcast charts to find suitable ideas for commissions, leading to the likes of new Serial-inspired documentary The case Against Adnan Syed, comedy series 2 Dope Queens, and dramas Lore and Homecoming. However, in general, the TV industry has been a bit slow to catch on to the value of podcasting. But it’s not too late.

There are many good reasons why both producers and broadcasters should get involved in podcasting. For the broadcaster, the pattern of commissioning is changing. FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google and Netflix) commissioners don’t have schedules to fill and are, in most cases, delivering across multiple platforms. 

Rather than a single linear TV series a package of content that delivers across al their platforms can be attractive to them, their audience and their advertising clients. Podcasting can play a vital role in such a content package – providing the glue that sticks it all together, bringing an audience from one piece of content to another, keeping a TV programme brand (and its characters, stories and behind-the-scenes gossip) alive in between episodes and also retaining an audience in the long wait between series. There is no other medium that can do this in such a creatively effective and cost-effect way. 

Podcasting is a fantastic development tool for broadcasters and producers. There are countless examples of great radio ideas transferring to TV, worldwide. Almost every comedy panel show you’ll watch began life as a radio series, while radio dramas have similarly made the move to TV and countless radio stars have gone on to forge careers on the screen. 

Developing original ideas through podcasts can be a great way of trialling formats, introducing new talent, developing scripts and generally creating a buzz. It’s tough for a commissioner to be tempted by an idea without having had the benefit of a proof of concept. Unlike a non-tx pilot/taster, podcast get real audiences and form real communities that generate reaction and feedback about the idea, talent, stories and formats. 

Podcast 2 Dope Queens was turned into a series for HBO

when it comes to advertiser-funded and sponsored projects, the opportunity for the client brand to wrap themselves across a cross-platform package of content is attractive. Alongside the break-bumpers and the voting app, a supporting podcast commissioned as a ‘sister show’ provides a great place for a brand to put their name on specifically tailored content (which, incidentally, is free from regulatory control applied to broadcast). It’s an opportunity not to be missed for your brand-funded projects. 

The stats back up the view that the TV sector should be excited about podcasting. The audience is comparatively young: for example, in the UK, podcast listeners are younger than traditional broadcast viewers, with two-thirds in the elusive 16-34 age bracket. As you don’t trip across a podcast – instead seeking it out, putting your headphones on and pressing play – there’s near total engagement. 

A recent survey by audioBoom and Edison Research revealed the average listener is listening for an average of two hours a day, with 93% saying that they listened to podcasts all the way through. Edison’s research in the US articulates the podcast boom: where just five years ago only 12% of Americans aged 12 and older listened to podcasts in the last month, that audience is now up to 40%, or roughly 112 million people. In addition, 15% of Americans – or 42 million people – had listened to a podcast in the past week. Statistics like these show why, in the UK, the hit podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno has had more than 100 million downloads, while US phenomenon Serial racked up seven million downloads every episode. 

The power of podcasting is huge, and it’s time for the TV industry to make the most of this fantastic, audience-generating opportunity. 

By Tim Hammond, Managing Director

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