Homecoming, a 12-part scripted psychological thriller starring Julia Roberts in her first small-screen role, is running on Amazon Prime Video. The 2016 series began as a podcast with Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer and Amy Sedaris. Positioned as an “enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions and overheard conversations” it creates “an innovative, immersive audio experience.”
Dr. Death, starring Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater and Grace Gummer, tells the tale of a Dallas neurosurgeon who turns out to be a sociopath who kills patients. Although the video series is still looking for a home, it has a production pedigree from Wondery, which calls itself the world’s largest independent podcast publisher focusing on “immersive” content.
Its new direct-to-video program, The Shrink Next Door, is an eight-episode series based on a 2019 podcast. The dark comedy is based on a relationship between a “psychiatrist-to-the-stars” (Paul Rudd) and his long-time patient (Will Farrell).
Among the standouts of the podcast-to-video migration was Serial, which became a four-part HBO documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed about the1999 murder of a Baltimore high school student, which questioned whether Syed was guilty of the crime.
It was the first podcast to reach five million downloads in iTunes history. HBO debuted the story on the anniversary of Syed’s imprisonment, revealing new evidence about the case. Ultimately, Maryland courts reversed the verdict, but a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision has kept the case in limbo.
Some skeptics fret that the value of the podcast — like radio — is that it encourages listeners to imagine what the characters and scenery look like. Hence, video productions are a detriment to imagination, critics contend.
Others say the transmedia migration is overhauling the storytelling experience. The limited “seasons” of podcasts works well in the on-demand world of streaming media. It also lends itself to shorter viewer attention spans.
There’s also the issue of advertising in podcasts and a tantalizing opportunity in the streaming sector. Work is still in progress on how to expand video advertising without making it look like plain old TV.
With about 115,000 podcasts on the internet, there is plenty of fodder for more audio programs to become video sensations.
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