Film and TV studios have spent the past few years testing the theory that great stories can be translated from podcast audio to screen. This has meant striking deals with the creators of successful podcasts. Now, more and more Hollywood studios are launching their own in-house podcast divisions, cutting out the middleman while bringing big stars and new respect to podcasting.
The latest to join the club is Lionsgate, which is launching a new division called Lionsgate Sound. The division will operate as a full-service podcast production company, managing podcast production for the studio’s film and television operations while overseeing all elements of podcast production for third-party clients.
“We look forward to entering the rapidly expanding podcast market as a great source of exciting new properties as well as an opportunity to meet the growing demand for audio content with our movies, TV series, Starz Originals and library titles,” Joe said. Drake, chairman of the Motion Picture Group, and Kevin Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, in a joint statement. “This initiative demonstrates Lionsgate’s 360-degree approach to content, providing us with the opportunity to continue stories on screen and create complementary podcasts to serve fans of our intellectual property while expanding the base of audience for new projects.”
Lionsgate Sound will be led by Craig Piligian, who also runs Lionsgate Pilgrim Media Group. Piligian owns a minority stake in Lionsgate Sound and he will manage the day-to-day operations of the group, which will also be overseen by Pilgrim COO Gretchen Stockdale and Chief Content Officer Nicholas Caprio. Lionsgate Audio has also hired veteran BBC Radio and TV journalist and producer Charlie Webster to spearhead the creation of the division. Weber previously created the BBC TV documentary “Nowhere to Run” and podcasts Indisputablewhich was a series of surveys on domestic violence that proposes to rethink the question in a stimulating way, and my sportsmanshipwhich was an intimate show that speaks to sports stars about mental health.
Other film and television producers have also created their own podcast divisions. Endeavour, the entertainment and sports conglomerate, was one of the first when it launched Endeavor Audio in 2018. Others have followed, ranging from filmmaker JJ Abrams’ production company Bad Robot which launched Bad Robot Audio last fall at the documentary film studio XTR, which created its audio-focused Radio XTR division last August. Others have chosen to form alliances with established podcasters such as Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, which has announced a partnership with iHeartMedia in December.
Four shows at launch, a dozen more in production
Lionsgate Sound will launch with four shows, including a series hosted and produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson about drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Its working title is Cuate/twin/: The Downfall of El Chapo and the show is produced by Jackson’s new G-Unit Audio and exclusively distributed through the iHeartPodcast network.
Other planned shows include the Playing Dead interview podcast hosted by actor Michael Nathanson (“Marvel’s The Punisher” from Netflix), an FBI-focused show titled A Nation for Thieves hosted by actor Justin Shenkarow; and Died and Survived, a series detailing near-death experiences hosted by its own Charlie Webster.
Lionsgate Sound is also producing a true crime thriller titled The Lives and Deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman for exclusive distribution by Canadian broadcaster CBC. This is an eight-part “forensic biography” of the incredible rise and tragic death of pharmaceutical billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife Honey. Lionsgate Audio says it has more than a dozen additional projects in the works.
“We are thrilled to partner with Curtis ’50’ Cent Jackson and the other talented creators behind our upcoming shows,” Piligian said in the announcement. “With our strong product lineup, we are well positioned to reach the next generation of consumers.”
While Piligian will manage the day-to-day operations of Lionsgate Sound, the group will be governed by a board of directors made up of Lionsgate executives. They include Scott Herbst, executive vice president and head of script development at Lionsgate Television; Suzy Felfeli, executive director of corporate development; Scott O’Brien, development director of Lionsgate MPG; as well as Pilgrim Media’s Piligian and Stockdale.
The company says Lionsgate EVP & Head of Global Products & Experiences Jenefer Brown has also been heavily involved in the initiative as a key facilitator in several cross-company IP content groups.