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Why comedy podcasts are taking off at Audible


Paul Lieberstein, writer and actor for “The Office,” had a wacky idea for a story about a bored spaceship captain who pursues comedic tangents while roaming the galaxy. But Lieberstein didn’t think the concept would work in a conventional TV episode format.

So he decided to create a fictional podcast instead. “Middlespace: The Rebels Attack, and Then the Other Side Attacks Too” will debut next week on Audible, the audiobook and podcast company owned by Amazon.

“There is impatience in film and television now,” Lieberstein said. “There’s just a lot of things that need to happen and a lot of stories to be told… I didn’t have a story to tell, I had characters to play with. [In] podcast world / Audible – people are more willing to accept another way.

The series will be one of six new scripted comedy podcasts that Audible will roll out over the next few months as the Newark, NJ-based company looks to expand its entertainment offerings and attract more consumers.

“Audible is where the audience is and if the audience is thirsty for comedy we will provide what they need and we are partnering with some of the most exciting people in space,” said Zola Mashariki , Head of Audible Studios. .

Launched in 1995 as an audiobook company, Audible has grown in recent years into other forms of storytelling.

After e-commerce giant Amazon bought the company for $ 300 million in 2008, Audible ventured into original scripted podcasts, releasing its first original scripted comedy “Stinker Lets Loose!” in 2018; he already has 31 scripted comedy podcasts. Many are told through 20 to 30 minute episodes.

Scripted podcasts allow Audible to invest in stories that could be reused for other areas of Amazon, like Amazon Prime Video. For example, “Evil Eye,” which started as a podcast on Audible in 2019, was later adapted into a horror film released on Amazon Prime Video last year.

Like other entertainment companies, Amazon has expanded its footprint in the podcast space. Last year, Amazon Music acquired West Hollywood-based Wondery.

By adding podcasts, Audible can attract talent and their potentially important social media followers.

“They have the installed base of people who are already on the move, they love the audio format,” said Ray Wang, senior analyst at Constellation Research, based in Palo Alto. “They want to expand it.”

Audible says it has millions of listeners but did not disclose specific numbers. Users can access exclusive new podcasts through an Audible subscription, which starts at $ 7.95 per month.

Audible’s podcasts cover many categories of content, primarily comedy, romantic comedy, sci-fi, thriller, mystery and wellness, the company said. Past scripted comedy podcasts include the recent “Hot White Heist” with an all-queer cast; and “Eat S— Kenny Daniels,” which came out last year and stars Alicia Silverstone.

The six new scripted comedy podcasts coming to Audible through April 2022 are “Middlespace”; “Christmas delivery”, about a cranky courier who sets out on a journey like a Christmas carol; “Self Center,” featuring a 40-year-old woman whose weekend retreat goes sour; “Lem Can Help,” which focuses on a man with a popular advice show performed by Fred Armisen; “Summer in Argyle,” about an Ohio town rocked after the death of an athlete; and “Blood Weed,” which is about a young cannabis entrepreneur, voiced by “The Sixth Sense” actor Haley Joel Osment.

Audible is releasing most of these new podcasts through partnerships with New York-based comedy production company Above Average or its parent company, Broadway Video Enterprises, founded by “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels. Conan O’Brien’s digital media company, Team Coco, worked with Audible on “Self Center”.

An Audible executive declined to disclose the budgets for his podcasts. A person familiar with the company said budgets could reach six figures, according to the cast.

“It was a great way to expand the pipeline of stories we could broadcast to the world,” said Britta von Schoeler, president of Broadway Video Enterprises. “I think the goal is ultimately to make these audio narrative series and use them as a proof of concept, so hopefully we can develop them in another format, whether it’s for TV, stage or film. . ”

Although their company is located in a different part of the Amazon ecosystem, Audible executives say they have found ways to collaborate with Amazon Studios, which publishes original series and films.

“Our main focus is always to create great sound … but we definitely think about how expansive content can be and how it can create worlds. So we frequently work on different projects with Amazon Studios or other groups, ”said Rachel Ghiazza, head of US content at Audible.

In the past, comedy podcasts started out as an interview or improvisation, bringing funny people together in one room. Now listeners are looking for high-quality productions with top producers in unscripted or scripted comedy podcasts, said Adam Sachs, COO of Team Coco.

“There are so many podcasts that now the public is expecting more,” Sachs said. “We’re finding that audiences expect more experimentation with the format, more demand for higher, higher quality content. “


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