TV network Fremantle is getting into scripted drama podcasts

TV show producer and distributor Fremantle is making a bet on scripted drama podcasts. With new global label Storyglass, it aims to release eight scripted drama series by the end of next summer.

Although release dates haven’t been set, Storyglass has announced two podcast series are ready to go: a dark comedic murder mystery called “Director’s Cut” and a series called “Baby It’s Cold Outside” that follows a man struggling with homelessness who tries to keep it from his son. The podcasts have a distribution window on Acast, where they will be monetized through ads, before appearing on other platforms. Director’s Cut” will run over 20 episodes, while “Baby It’s Cold Outside” will likely run four episodes over consecutive days.

Scripted drama podcasts are appealing in part of because of their speed and immediacy, especially when compared with producing TV shows, said Storyglass creative director Robert Delamere. “Drama commissions in broadcast development can be anything between one and 10 years,” he said. “We’re looking at a three- to six-month turnaround. There’s something fascinating about responding immediately to talent and stories and culture.”

Another producer, Ben Walker, is working with Delamere, but Storyglass will also draw on Fremantle’s global drama division, its U.K. youth label called Shotglass and other global labels. Every eight weeks the board of four executives will go through projects pitched to Storyglass.

Ultimately, Fremantle, part of RTL Group, will try to take some of these podcasts to TV. “There’s a quiet intention there to look for and test material to grow into screen formats, but we want them to first have success on their own terms,” said Delamere. He pointed out that it’s not yet proven, particularly in the U.K., that there’s a viable audience for scripted drama podcasts.

In the U.S. there are more mature examples of podcast companies selling film and TV rights to their shows, which come with ready-made audiences. The explosion in appetite for dramatic content, fueled in part by platforms such as Amazon, Netflix and Apple, makes podcasting a cost-effective way for testing narratives.

“Scripted drama is probably one of the few remaining gaps in the U.K. podcast market,” said Susie Warhurst, global head of content at Acast. “We know from success stories in the U.S. that there’s huge audience demand for this type of creative format. The ad market is also ready to embrace more experimental podcast formats and align themselves with cutting-edge drama.”

According to broadcast regulator Ofcom, the number of U.K. adults listening to podcasts each week has doubled in the last five years to nearly 6 million. The majority of this listening takes place on Apple’s podcasting app, leaving podcast creators grumbling for its lack of audience data sharing. For the most part, it’s not scripted drama series that make up the majority of downloads.

Acast along with content producer Somethin’ Else launched a structured reality podcast at the becoming of October, but drama series podcasts in the U.K. are still fairly nascent. Moving from creating non-fiction to drama podcasts takes added investment.

The two scripted series that are ready at launch were chosen for their differences, to show the openness of the commissioning round, Delamere said. Along with global stories, Delamere wants a diverse range across genre, race and class in order to understand the market.

“We want to test whether you can you create an event drama moment over podcasting,” he said.

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