Podcasts Proving to be Fertile Ground for TV Developers

by Paige Albiniak  |  08.30.2016

Podcasts have been around for more than a decade and radio shows before that have been around longer than television, but it’s only been recently that television producers have started looking at podcasts as potential television productions.

Lore, a podcast produced and hosted by Aaron Mahnke that covers the supernatural, is being adapted into an anthology TV show by The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd in cooperation with Propagate Content, reports Adweek

There are not yet tons of shows being produced that launched as podcasts but more are joining the fold. IFC was inspired to produce Maron — a comedy starring Marc Maron — based on his his popular podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, which launched in 2009.

Maron is no longer on the air, but IFC continues to look to podcasts, digital short-form and other non-traditional platforms to find content it can develop into series. 

“We continue to look at podcasts and other platforms as fertile ground in our development process,” Christine Lubrano, IFC senior VP, original programming, told Adweek. “(It’s) a strategy recently highlighted by our newest original series, Brockmire, starring Hank Azaria, which started out as a digital Funny or Die short.”

Fox 21 Studios is developing a show telling the behind-the-scenes story of Sarah Koenig’s podcast, Serial, the first season of which has been downloaded more than 80 million times, according to the Washington Post.

In season one, Serial told the story of Adnan Syed, who is serving a life sentence for allegedly murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The popular podcast seemed to kick off a true-crime trend: Netflix’s Making A Murderer was the hit of last holiday season, FX scored huge ratings and buzz with its American Crime Story: the People vs. OJ Simpson, and HBO’s The Night Of made a splash this summer. (Season two of Serial, which told the story of Bowe Bergdhal, who went AWOL in Afghanistan in June 2009 and caused the military a whole host of problems, proved to be less popular.)

Mahnke’s Lore launched last year and quickly grew to a reach of 2.5 million listeners. That kind of base gives TV producers some assurance of success, Mahnke told Adweek.

“I think Lore was perfect for a transition to television,” he said. “It’s fresh, being very unlike anything that’s out there in the genre. It’s also insanely popular, and television networks want to eliminate a lot of the risk, so a popular show helps them start something new while having a ready-made audience just waiting to support it.”

Radio shows have been evolving into TV shows since both existed — podcasts just give the practice a user-generated twist. Showtime aired a TV version of WBEZ Chicago’s This American Life in 2007 and 2008, but the beloved radio show didn’t seem to convert well to a video format and only lasted two seasons. 

Still, the beauty of podcasts is how convenient they are — listeners can tune in while they are driving to work, walking the dog or working out. Video doesn’t offer the same convenience, which may make it difficult to convert them to TV.

“Part of what makes podcasting so powerful and relevant to listeners is that it’s audio, and audio fits into the cracks in our lives,” Mahnke told Adweek. “If I’m doing something that doesn’t allow me to use my hands or brain, I’m pumping audio into it. So podcasting is perfect for those moments.”


[Image courtesy of Adweek]

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