Cinedigm Ups Scripted Audio Drama Podcasts With Two New Original Series

Cinedigm June 23 announced that its podcast network has reached 50 million downloads, with plans to triple its podcast lineup to 75 titles by the end of its fiscal year on March 31, 2023. 

To date, Cinedigm owns or distributes 25 podcasts through its Bloody Disgusting and Fandor brands, up 127% from 11 podcast on March 31, 2022. 

In addition to the recently signed popular horror fiction podcasts such as “Scare You to Sleep With Shelby Scott,” two new scripted fictional podcasts in development via Bloody Disgusting — which represents the largest share and fastest-growing segment of Cinedigm’s Podcast Network — are “Skin Crawl” and the “Mayfair Watcher’s Society.”

Cinedigm continues to expand its podcast team across its entire channel portfolio to produce more audio dramas, or original scripted series for podcasts, which is the fastest-growing segment of the podcast business.

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“Cinedigm is committed to growing its footprint within the podcast space,” said Erick Opeka, president and chief strategy officer at Cinedigm. “The audio drama segment is not only heavily in demand for advertisers, but it also creates and validates valuable IP that can expand into feature films and series.”

This expansion mirrors the medium itself, with a booming number of podcast listeners eager for content. Statista reported that around 120 million Americans listened to podcasts last year with 62% of the population 12+ having listened to a podcast this year. By the end of 2023, Statista is expecting the number of podcast listeners to grow to around 160 million. 

Based on the popular magazine of the same name, “Skin Crawl” is a horror anthology inspired by the comics series created by legendary gore artist, Skinner. The podcast will be produced as a full-cast drama, and feature select stories from the comic series as well as some original content. The collaboration with Bloody Disgusting marks the next stage of Skinner’s prolific career, who previously was known for working on everything from animation to film to illustrations to music videos. The radio drama will feature surprise voice actors, terrifying tales and incredible sound design when it launches this September. 

“Mayfair Watcher’s Society” is based on the work of horror artist and influencer Trevor Henderson. Venturing into the found footage sub-genre, the podcast will be presented as a community message board where small-town residents report sightings of unusual creatures. Henderson has a huge following within the horror community, with over a million followers on Twitter and Instagram alone. The found footage-esque podcast is currently targeting a pilot release timed to Halloween.  

“The evolution of the medium has made it possible for visual artists to reach an entirely new audience,” Trevor Henderson said. “Podcasts allow us to think beyond the conventional story template and push the boundaries of art as a whole.”

Cinedigm: ‘Bloody Disgusting’ Podcast Downloads Increased 50% to 40 Million in 2021

Cinedigm on March 2 announced that its Bloody Disgusting horror brand reported record growth for its podcasts in 2021. The brand saw more than 40 million podcast downloads last year, up 50% from 2020, and a 25% increase in listeners.

Currently distributing 11 horror-themed podcasts, the Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network curates both fiction and non-fiction shows, covering everything from the sinister anthology Bleeder’s DIEgest to the Stephen King-inspired The Losers’ Club to SCP Archives Presents. The company’s most popular podcast Creepy, which Cinedigm claims is downloaded more than a million times each month, gives voice to urban legends and horror stories primarily posted online, which are known as “creepypastas.”

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This past October marked the fourth annual “31 Days of Horror” series, which has become a fan favorite each year. Last year’s Halloween season series amassed 3.2 million listens.

Bloody Disgusting podcasts consistently chart on Apple and Spotify. Creepy and SCP are always Top 50 on Apple. SCP is one of the fastest-growing shows on Spotify, consistently in the top 5 on Spotify charts in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, Sweden and Brazil. Creepy and SCP are in the top 1% of podcasts by downloads, according to Cinedigm.

The growth trajectory continues into 2022, with Bloody Disgusting’s podcasts on track to gross more than $1 million ad dollars before the year’s end, and major brands such as Babbel, Audible, HelloFresh and Nectar Sleep as current sponsors. Bloody Disgusting is investing aggressively to scale its podcast business with more original shows in development.

“It has been extremely exciting to watch the Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network see such tremendous growth year over year,” Tom Owen, managing director of the brand, said in a statement.

Over the past 10 years, podcasts have become an increasingly popular form of entertainment. According to Statista, data from a study conducted in early 2021 showed that 41% of the population reported listening to a podcast in the previous month, which was more than three times as many listeners as a decade earlier. Diversity in content has played a role in the medium’s continued rise. Historically skewing younger, the percentage of podcast listeners aged 55+ more than doubled between 2017 and 2021. This number will undoubtedly continue to rise as more Americans familiarize themselves with the medium. Statista reported that around 120 million Americans listened to podcasts last year, with that number expected to jump to around 160 million by the end of 2023.

Amazon Bows True-Crime Series Podcast ‘American Hostage,’ Starring Jon Hamm

Podcasts are becoming more than platforms for on-demand talking heads.

Amazon Feb. 22 announced that original podcast “American Hostage,” a true-crime series starring Emmy-winning actor Jon Hamm, launches today and is available to binge on Amazon Music and Wondery+, followed by weekly episodic releases on all podcast services starting March 8.

Series cast members include Carla Gugino (WatchmenThe Haunting of Bly Manor), Dylan Baker (Hunters) and Joe Perrino (Power), who join Hamm in the scripted podcast based on a true event. The eight-episode series is directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Shawn Christensen (Curfew, Blackout), written by C.D. Carpenter, and executive produced by Gabriel Mason, Hamm, and Christensen.

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Set in Indianapolis in 1977, “American Hostage” is based on a true story and stars Hamm as Fred Heckman, a local radio reporter who is thrust into the middle of a life-or-death crisis when hostage-taker demands to be interviewed on news program.

Through Heckman’s radio show, the hostage taker gradually becomes a media sensation and unexpected anti-hero during a 63-hour standoff.  With striking similarities to some of today’s national headlines, “American Hostage” puts its listeners in the middle of the action and asks the questions “Who is the real victim?” and “Is the media helping or hurting the problem?”

“Part of what attracted me to this story was the absolute brazenness of the crime itself compounded by the slow burn realization that something was terribly wrong,” Hamm said in a statement. “The parallels to today’s dissatisfaction on all sides with not being heard, not being understood and somehow being taken advantage of by something bigger than us are glaring. We apparently still haven’t learned our lessons about the consequences of dismissing people’s outrage.”

Report: Majority of Consumers Frustrated Navigating Content Choices Across Streaming Services

With myriad content choices found across multiple streaming platforms, an increasing number of consumers say they’re frustrated finding favorite shows and music located across numerous services.

New data from consulting firm Accenture finds that three-in-five subscribers to multiple streaming services expressed frustration with their viewing experiences, and 44% of those surveyed indicate they spend more than six minutes searching for something to watch.

Based on a global survey of 6,000 respondents, conducted between October and November 2021, to better understand their preferences, beliefs, and behaviors on their video content streaming experiences, the report found that more than 60% of the content they are paying for is not relevant to them. Furthermore, more than 56% said they wish their profile from one service could easily be shared with another service that may offer them better, more personalized content.

“Consumers said that the video streaming experience has become somewhat unwieldy, unfriendly, and expensive for many of them,” Andrew Walker, global communications and media industry group leader at Accenture, said in a statement.

The report also indicates that while consumers care more about the content delivered by streaming services, they find the navigation experience with the growing number of services to be increasingly frustrating.

John Peters, managing director in the media and entertainment industry group. contends content aggregators can address these concerns by unifying access across streaming services through application software, services and data-sharing agreements. Aggregators can also foster flexibility and personalization for viewers by serving as a single platform with curated content that enables them to select exactly what they want to watch.

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“Consumers didn’t express a strong preference for a particular company to give them a better user experience,” Peters said. “People expect innovation and improvement in this space and are looking for a company to come up with new and better ideas for delivering content to them in a way that makes their lives easier and their viewing experiences more enjoyable.”

The report suggests that companies streaming video, music, podcasts and/or gaming determine if they want to be an integrator or the integrated, so they can either shape distribution deals to entice SVOD and AVOD services to participate or partner with the entities vying to be the preferred integrator.

Invest in data privacy and make that commitment known to their consumers, so they are confident sharing data that is critical for integration and personalization services.

Think beyond SVOD and AVOD services to consider music services, podcast and e-book services, video games, home security, food delivery services and more. Accenture believes that streaming services with data-driven experimentation at the core of how they operate will be far more ready and nimble to adapt to changing consumer preferences.

“A big change to the streaming ecosystem is needed to give consumers greater control over their experience — the addition of a smart content aggregator, sitting across multiple platforms,” Walker said.

Netflix, Spotify Partner for Audio-Streaming ‘Hub’

Netflix and Spotify have partnered for the launch of the “Netflix Hub” on the music subscription streaming platform. Free (ad-supported) and premium (no ads) Spotify subs in North America, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland, and India can now access Netflix content playlists, soundtracks and podcasts.

Spotify ended the most recent fiscal period with 179 million subscribers worldwide. Netflix ended the period with 213.5 million subs.

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Within the hub, users have access to official playlists for Netflix TV shows, including “La Casa de Papel” (Money Heist), “Bridgerton” and “On My Block,” as well as the official soundtrack for shows like “Squid Game,” “Bruised” and “Bebop.” Netflix-related podcasts include: “Okay, Now Listen,” “Netflix Is A Daily Joke,” “10/10” and “The Crown: The Official Podcast.”

Spotify is launching the Hub around Netflix’s new action Western film The Harder They Fall. Users can access the behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the movie’s soundtrack, led by Jay-Z, and the album’s audio liners from featured artists Kid Cudi, Koffee and Ms. Lauryn Hill. Listeners can access the Spotify features through Canvas, Storylines and playlist Clips.

Streamers Eyeing Audio Podcasts as Next Market Growth

Netflix has quietly posted a job listing looking for an executive with “audio/podcast programming” experience. The move mirrors other streaming video platforms such as HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ seeking to expand their platform beyond video and into audio content.

Podcasts, like audio books, are a series of audio files covering fiction, non-fiction ideas, stories that can be downloaded via the Internet on myriad portable devices. The global podcasting market topped $9.2 billion in value in 2019 and is projected to grow 27.5% annually through 2027 — driven by easy consumer access while multitasking activities such as driving, commuting, walking, gardening, exercising, or cleaning.

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“Podcasts are an excellent way for fans to connect with our stories and talent, and our marketing team plans to make more of them,” Jonathan Bing, a Netflix representative, said in a media statement first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The average podcast runs from 20 minutes to 45 minutes, with opportunities to sell advertising within story breaks. Even better: Research suggests podcast ads can run as long as 90 seconds, with viewer attention reaching 85%. A 2017 Edison Research report found that the average podcast consumer listens to five podcasts weekly.

That’s enticing to major media brands such as Google, WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS, Facebook, Spotify and Apple.

This fall, Apple TV+ will launch original docu-series “The Line,” about former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s alleged war crimes in the Middle East. The streamer is now offering a six-part podcast series as a primer leading up to the video series debut.

“Large new-content platforms like Facebook and YouTube will [soon] build audio-specific products and begin to distribute podcasts en masse,” Conal Byrne, president of iHeartPodcast Network, said in a statement.

Indeed, HBO Max, like Netflix, has already used podcasts in limited fashion, offering greater depth into select video programming and movies.

Last year, Max parent WarnerMedia inked a deal with iHeartMedia to create podcasts for numerous original TV series such as “Search Party” and “Raised by Wolves,” among others.

“WarnerMedia Entertainment’s networks and brands have long been a marvel in the entertainment industry, and we’re ecstatic for the opportunity to be a part of their legendary storytelling and to bring this trove of new content to the iHeartPodcast Network,” Byrne said at the time.

WarnerMedia Inks Shaquille O’Neal to Multi-Platform Deal

WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports has signed NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to multiyear extension that will expand the outsized personality’s media scope beyond the hardwood.

A 15-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Champion, O’Neal will continue in his role as studio analyst for TNT’s Sports Emmy Award winning “Inside the NBA,” along with the “NBA on TNT Tuesday Night” franchise.

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He’ll also appear on NBA TV and contribute to His NBA TV airtime will include a new show in development on “The Business of Basketball,” with more details to be announced at a later date. O’Neal will expand his “Shaqtin-a-Fool” franchise to include new genres and platforms, contribute podcasts to the WarnerMedia Podcast Network.

“Shaq is so critical to our success, and such a huge part of the heart and soul of our coverage,” Jeff Zucker, chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports, said in a statement.

Tara August, SVP of talent services and special projects at Turner Sports, said O’Neal’s appeal to consumers resonates beyond sports.

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“His fun, infectious personality is engaging, entertaining and beloved by fans,” August said. “We’re thrilled to extend and deepen our relationship with him for many years to come.”

iHeartMedia, WarnerMedia Ink Deal to Co-Produce Slate of Podcasts for HBO Max

iHeartRadio and WarnerMedia Entertainment June 23 announced a partnership to co-produce a slate of companion podcasts for HBO Max’s upcoming catalog of original and legacy shows.

The first podcasts will be for the comedy thriller series “Search Party,” created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers and Michael Showalter, and sci-fi drama, “Raised by Wolves,” directed and executive produced by Ridley Scott. These podcasts, along with the entire slate of co-produced companion podcasts, will be available on HBO Max, iHeartRadio and everywhere podcasts are heard.

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The new slate of companion podcasts will play as standalone productions in their own right, but will often center on and help promote HBO Max programming. Additionally, iHeartMedia and WarnerMedia will both commit marketing resources to promote the podcasts and other HBO Max content across the iHeartPodcast Network and other iHeartMedia broadcast and digital platforms. The companies may also produce podcasts for WarnerMedia’s television networks, TNT, TBS and truTV.

“Today’s streaming fans are hungry for more content the second they finish an episode of their favorite shows, and podcasts are a great way to keep those fans engaged while also giving our roster of creative talent additional tools to extend the worlds of their shows and stories,” Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and truTV, and CCO of HBO Max, said in a statement.

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Primarily set in New York City, “Search Party” follows a group of privileged, self-absorbed twentysomethings whose search for a long-lost missing friend leads them down a dark and shocking path of no return. The first two seasons of the show are currently available on HBO Max and all episodes of season three will debut on the streamer June 25.

“Raised by Wolves” centers on two androids, Father and Mother, tasked with raising human children on a mysterious new planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.

Futuresource: Music Streaming Declines in COVID-19 World

With the exception of vinyl records, subscription streaming music services remain the number one growth driver in the global music market, accounting for more than 70% of spending on music last year, according to Futuresource Consulting.

Yet, as measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 begin to reshape the lives of consumers, music streaming is experiencing a temporary decline, with consumption down from 15% to 20%.

“We may have expected to see an uptake in the use of streaming music services, as people become confined in their homes,” market analyst Alexandre Jornod said in a statement. “This is linked to consumers adjusting to new confinement rules, which have removed key music listening situations like the daily commute, as well as office and gym time.”

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Futuresource says that as families spend more time at home together, music consumption is becoming a shared activity. Before the pandemic people were using separate accounts to play different music, now smart speakers are likely to be used with a single account used to play music in the household.

The London-based firm said there is also competition from gaming, movie and TV show streaming. These activities require a higher level of attention and tend to be favored when some extra time is freed up as a result of routines being interrupted.

“Once consumers become accustomed to the situation and establish new routines, we expect streaming music to get back to levels similar to before the crisis,” Jornod said. “Home listening will dominate, with a shift in the music types and genres as consumers seek out lean-back mood playlists as opposed to searching for specific songs or artists.”

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Meanwhile, Futuresource said Spotify and Apple account for more than 60% of combined global subscriptions. Spotify remains No.1 globally, with Apple No. 1 in the United States. Amazon Music’s multiple streaming plans cater to a wide audience, although its subscriptions are closely linked to Echo smart speaker geographies, which skew heavily towards the U.S. and U.K., according to Futuresource.

The research firm contends Google-owned YouTube Music has the potential to become a key player thanks to its established YouTube audience. Smaller players like Deezer, Tidal and Napster are focusing instead on strategies such as targeting local markets, serving niche audiences or B2B operations.

“Streaming music subscriptions also benefit from markets where physical media has been historically strong and they are now transitioning to streaming,” Jornod said, alluding to Germany, Japan and France, which he said are experiencing accelerated adoption — unlike maturing markets in North America.

“Watch out for a rise in podcasts beginning to exert its influence, as well as enhanced listening experiences such as Hi-Res audio, Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio,” Jornod said.

Parks: One-Third of U.S. Broadband Households Listen to Podcasts Weekly; 9% Subscribe to Online News Service

With millions of people home-bound through work and school due to the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Parks Associates finds 36% of U.S. broadband households listen to podcasts weekly, although the research firm expects patterns of video, music, and news consumption to change dramatically as a result of the current public health crisis.

The study finds that podcasts dealing with video, music and news have a stronger appeal among younger consumers than older consumers and almost half of podcast consumers are heavy users, spending more than five hours per week listening. Podcast users are also very interested in bundling podcast services with video and music.

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The Dallas-based research company reports that in the third quarter of 2019, 9% of U.S. broadband households subscribed to an online news service.

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“While news consumption is going up during the COVID-19 crisis and daily briefings, most online news outlets have provided their coverage free of charge or outside of the paywall, so the number of households subscribing to an online news service will likely not increase as much in the short term,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement. “Long term, we will be tracking consumer trends to see if current events will drive broader online news consumption and subscription habits.”