Podcasts are the Hot Place to Look For New TV Ideas

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Podcasts are the perfect partner for TV shows. Why not join our Managing Director Tim Hammond at MIPTV in Cannes in a few weeks time to find out why?  Tim was recently featured in the MIPTV Preview magazine on this very subject:

Over the years, the content industry has become adept at transforming ideas from books, comics and films into scripted and non-scripted series. These sources, alongside reboots, formats and originations, have dominated small-screen IP development – with the exception of kids’ content, where toys and action figures can be thrown into the mix.

Recently, however, a growing number of TV franchises have been developed on the back of digital-first IP. Explaining why, Cyrus Farrokh, president of distribution at indie studio Propagate Content, says: “There’s such a voracious demand for content that no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of great ideas. Our business model is built around finding interesting ideas everywhere, from Russian scripted formats to podcasts. We just don’t discriminate.”

Propagate has had particular success with podcasts, notably its adaption of Lore. Produced in partnership with Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment, the horror anthology series was picked up for a second season in 2018 by Amazon Prime. Subsequently, Propagate acquired another hit podcast, Up And Vanished, which it adapted for Oxygen. ” We have another project lined up for a streaming service and we also have a podcast-based scripted series in development,” Farrokh adds.

Explaining the key to a successful adaptation, Farrokh puts a lot of emphasis on collaboration with the original creator. “Some studios have a tendency to acquire the rights to IP, then sideline the originator, but we want them as apart of the process,” he says.

At first sight, the conversion of podcasts to TV series may seem counterintuitive, given that they are audio-based. But there are a couple of reasons why there is a logic to this process. The first is that there is a proven precedent, with radio having delivered numerous talk and game-based ideas to TV. The second is that successful podcasts are typically content rich, thus providing TV producers with a well-defined creative proposition.

Tim Hammond, managing director of independent content studio Wisebuddah, adds that podcasts as a scripted-TV development tool can be “quicker and cheaper than a non-TX pilot, and also provide data about the target audience”. He also suggests they can also be a better way for talent to get their head around an idea than a printed script: “Take an example like Homecoming, a Gimlet Media podcast that’s being adapted into a drama series by Amazon with Julia Roberts in the lead. She must be inundated with scripts but, to be able to listen to a podcast while she’s at the gym or in her car is a way of bringing story and characters to life in a more immediate way.”

Homecoming, a Gimlet Media podcast that’s being adapted into a drama series with Julia Roberts

Wisebuddah’s core business is audio, but Hammond’s background until joining the firm 18 months ago was all about TV and IP exploitation. “Now I’m looking for opportunities to integrate the two worlds,” he says. “In part, this involves creating podcasts linked brands such as the BBC series The Greatest Dancer. But we are also actively developing podcasts that we think could have an additional life as televisual series.”

But does this mean that podcasts are effectively loss-leaders – an attempt to win a TV commission? Hammond says not: “There are business models around audio-on-demand that can make podcasts viable in their own right, mainly involving sponsorship and advertising but also, increasingly, subscription.”

The prospect of podcasts becoming a development tool is rising now that mainstream media channels are exploring the area. AMC Networks’ Sundance Now, for example, has just launched a scripted podcast called Exeter about a series of shocking ritualistic murders in South Carolina. While there are no immediate plans for Exeter to become a TV series, the news reinforces Hammond’s point about podcast’s potential as TV testing grounds.

Attending MIPFormats in Cannes on 6-7th April Tim will be talking at

7th April – 9:40 – Unavoidable Diversification

7th April – 16:10 – New Funding Partners: Looking for the next formats

Please get in touch to arrange a meeting with Tim during the event. Email tim.hammond@wisebuddah.com

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