The appetite for podcasts continues to grow, but the latest hit – audio accompaniments to hit TV shows and movies – has opened up a huge new sub-genre.
And, as the The Wall Street Journal reports, pretty much everyone involved has been taken by surprise.
Podcasts of fans and commentators discussing and dissecting shows are nothing new, of course. The difference with companion podcasts is that they’re being produced by the networks themselves which have access to the stars involved, and, crucially to those who produce and write shows. And they are proving to be massive hits.
The podcast accompanying Chernobyl, the five-part mini-series, dealt with subjects like how the real story of Chernobyl differed from the series, and why writer Craig Mazin decided not to give Russian accents to the actors.
Mazin told the Journal that the idea behind the podcast was to be as “anti-promotional as possible”. He believed at the time that “if 12 people listen to it but they are the hard-core Chernobyl nerds and they love it, then that's a job well done”.
Viewers of Chernobyl, which won 10 Emmys, loved it. To-date, The Chernobyl Podcast has been played more than 10 million times across various platforms, including HBO Go and HBO Now.
Similarly, Netflix has seen its Behind the Scenes: Stranger Things 3 podcast – a companion to the third season of the cult sci-fi drama – become the streaming company’s most popular podcast ever.
Netflix now plans to release at least two more companion podcasts by the end of the year, including one that will go behind the scenes of the making of Martin Scorsese’s new movie, The Irishman.
The secret of the podcasts’ success seems to be the level of authentic detail about the shows and those involved.
“There are a gazillion podcasts done by fans or commentators and that’s nice, but I find them kind of boring,” says Mazin. “They are just having a chat about a show, and I can have a chat about a show with anybody.”
Over the past couple of years, networks and streaming companies have increasingly looked at podcasts for inspiration for content ideas, the Journal noted. Now, they’re using podcast companions to boost fan loyalty.
“A lot of times, the stories about the craft of how a show or movie comes together ends up in the trades and stays locked in Hollywood a bit,” said Eric Pallotta, Netflix’s vice president of brand and editorial. “I like how the podcast space opens up the access to those types of stories to anyone.”
Sourced from, Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff