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A New Monetization Channel: Podcast Companion Content for Popular Shows



  • Podcast companion content for films and TV shows is on the rise
  • 1 in 3 Americans tune into podcasts now 
  • Podcast ad spending reached nearly 1 billion in 2020

“The world has changed,” said Hayley Atwell to a certain American captain well before everyone started using it last year. We get it. We are tired of hearing how things have changed too, but we promise, this is something that is exciting for consumers, Media & Entertainment professionals and advertisers alike.  

As companies find new opportunities to help them adapt to current economic challenges, we have seen many jumping on the podcast boom as seen in 2020. Due to a lack of box office visibility with many releases moving to digital platforms, companies are now leveraging companion podcasts as a new channel for monetization and connection with fans.

Podcast creation by major video and studio houses

ABC Audio premiered a new podcast back in 2019 called The Dropout which follows the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. There has been a lot of content coming out on this controversy, including a Hulu series that was announced on The Dropout podcast. A movie starring Jennifer Lawrence that’s slated for release on Netflix is also in the works.  

In May of 2019, HBO scored big with their miniseries entitled Chernobyl. As companion content to the show, the podcast features Craig Mazin, series creator, writer and executive producer, and host Peter Sagal, known for NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!,” who dive deeper into the event itself, taking the series into the philosophical questions that still linger thirty years since the disaster. 

The podcast was revered on Twitter and gave the directors an opportunity to respond to critiques about the actor’s unauthentic Russian accents in the show. The response across the board urged people to turn to the podcast as “they explain everything,” including why Mazin made the creative decision around accents.

Recent examples of podcast companion content

The popular 80s series Unsolved Mysteries was rebooted recently as a 12-part Netflix series. It currently has two seasons and explores real-life cases involving murders, paranormal events and strange disappearances in a documentary-style format. In August of last year, it was found that 13.7 percent of all Netflix subscribers had streamed the series in the first month of its release. The Entercom-owned Cadence13, which specializes in audio content, particularly podcasts, announced a new deal in October to make a podcast version of the show with weekly episodes.

In another example, one of the largest deals inked last year involved iHeartRadio, the self-proclaimed number one global podcast publisher. They signed a deal with WarnerMedia Entertainment, which includes HBO and HBO Max, TNT, TBS, truTV, Rooster Teeth, and Crunchyroll, to co-produce companion podcasts for HBO Max’s original shows. The first programs to receive this companion content included the comedy thriller series Search Party and the Sci-fi drama Raised by Wolves.

The popularity of podcasts has also inspired several films and TV series, from Wondery’s Dirty John podcast became both a Netflix movie and Bravo TV series to more recent HLN podcast Down the Hill, which was part of a two-night TV event on Headline News last month. 

Podcasting is mainstream with advertising growth rising fast 

Podcasting is a media format that is highly personalized. It’s available on-demand and is extremely engaging for its listeners. With 1 in 3 Americans regularly tuning in, podcasts are now mainstream and only accelerating in both adoption and production. In the second half of 2020, a new podcast launched every 2 minutes. With all this growth and engagement, podcast advertising is not an outlier, but a strong monetization channel. 

In 2020, spend on podcast ads surpassed $800 million. The previous year saw $708 million in podcast ad spend, a growth of 48 percent over 2018. Forecasts late last year for 2021 expect an even greater jump approaching almost 50 percent growth, breaking one billion in total spending. This is not surprising as podcast listeners continue to grow globally at a rapid pace.

Many companies have seen how podcast advertising performs and have decided to jump into the game, especially with the rapid rate of podcast creation. And the opportunities for new advertisers to enter the space are vast. 

However, the complexity of podcast advertising, driven by a lack of standardization, has made it hard for advertisers in navigating this opportunity. With years of experience working with some of the world’s largest advertising brands, Veritone One helps our clients simplify the process and get their message in front of the right audiences at scale. 

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Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash