A+E Networks Goes All-In as Podcasting Booms

By A+E Networks InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: A+E Networks Goes All-In as Podcasting Booms

A+E Networks is dialing into podcasts in a much more expansive way, bringing their award-winning brands into the audio space through thought-provoking, original podcast series. With success in the true-crime, historical and pop culture genres, A+E is increasing its podcast lineup to reach more engaged listeners than ever before. Each brand's approach differs, but they share a common goal: to grow A+E into an audio powerhouse. In the process they're leveraging their linear and digital properties and multiplatform advertising integrations.

"Our goal is to bring creative storytelling across all screens and into people's ears," explained Stacie Danzis (pictured below), A+E Networks' Senior Vice President of Digital Ad Sales. "It is that same effort, that same charisma, that same storytelling that people love from us, just in a new place."

In 2021, 28% of all Americans listened to podcasts weekly, up 17% over 2020 levels, according to Edison Research. The podcast audience is young and increasingly diverse: 50% of all monthly listeners are between 18 and 34 years of age. Usage is growing steadily among African American, Hispanic and Asian listeners, Edison reported.

For publishers, this paints an attractive picture. "We know podcast listeners are younger, more affluent, more engaged, and that they bring us diversity as well," Danzis said.

In a short time, A+E Networks podcasts have resonated with listeners and have become recognized by the industry. In 2021, the company had 18 active podcast shows and attracted more than 33 million downloads. Four of The HISTORY Channel podcasts have achieved No. 1 status in the history category. "It Was Said" and "History This Week" were both nominated for Webby Awards. In fact, "It Was Said" won the Webby for best podcast series, proving once again that the appetite for thoughtful context and trust in the HISTORY brand has never been more valuable.

Another HISTORY podcast (a co-production with WNYC Studios), "Blindspot: Tulsa Burning," also garnered critical acclaim. It was ranked No. 12 in The Atlantic's Best 50 Podcasts of 2021 and has been nominated as a finalist for the 2022 duPont-Columbia Awards and the NAACP Image Awards in the Podcast: Outstanding News & Information category.

In the true crime genre, A&E's "Cold Case Files" and "I Survived" were two of Apple's top 25 podcasts last year. Meanwhile, Lifetime entered the podcast space with originals "I Love a Lifetime Movie" and "The Table Is Ours."

This year, A+E's podcast unit is launching a slate of new shows. Among them is A&E's first foray into music podcasting, "The Secret Origins of Hip Hop." It features rap legend Grandmaster Caz as he sits with the stars of the A&E series by the same name and dives deeper into their songs, careers and visions behind the music.

The HISTORY Channel's upcoming "The 24 Hours After" will explore the minute-by-minute account of the day after major historical events, beginning with President John F. Kennedy's assassination. For DIY buffs, A&E is taking its popular home-improvement Enthusiast programming and launching a companion podcast, "HOME.MADE.Nation."

Danzis explained that A+E doesn't necessarily have a defined podcast formula. Instead, it looks for shows that will be additive to the brands. That said, while the podcast lineup is eclectic, there are some common ingredients, such as a commanding host, a captivating idea and a salient hook.

"We can reach the total audience through audio, through linear, through digital, all in one place," she explained. "And since we are not a big [podcast] behemoth or an ad network of podcasts, we can really pay attention to the details and offer robust creative solutions."

Lifetime's podcasts offer a prime example. The "I Love a Lifetime Movie" podcast is an audio companion to the network's wildly popular Lifetime Original Movies. Hosts Naomi Ekperigin and Megan Gailey, self-described Lifetime movie fanatics, take listeners behind the scenes of each movie, interviewing the stars and digging into plot twists. Listeners can even send in questions and comments. "Fans can be featured on the show, and they're loving that inclusive experience," Danzis said.

Another Lifetime podcast, "The Table is Ours," which tackles the modern Black experience and evolution of Black identity today, was named one of the "Top 10 Black Girl Podcasts to Plug Into" by Essence magazine. "This series is another great way to engage with Lifetime's audience on a new medium," Danzis noted.

One genre that podcast fans can't get enough of is so-called re-watch podcasts, where former stars or super fans relive their favorite content in podcast episodes. Later this year, Lifetime is offering its spin on the genre with a podcast tied to its hit TV series Married at First Sight, in which participants get married right after they meet. The podcast will serve as a follow-up, checking in with the couples after the cameras stopped rolling. "It's something different, but also parallel, and it is a good example of how we are extending our linear content across a variety of platforms," Danzis said.

Another example of this extended storytelling approach is the "HISTORY This Week" podcast, which is one piece of the popular, "This Day In HISTORY" franchise. With daily social posts, and web-based and voice-skill offerings that highlight what happened each day in our history, this podcast makes it possible for advertisers to enjoy multiplatform opportunities.

As A+E expands, it's looking for a larger share of podcast ad dollars. Accoring to eMarketer, advertisers are expected to spend about $1.75 billion on podcasts this year and increase investment to $2.74 billion by 2025. Like most publishers, host-read ads are A+E's bread and butter, but Danzis said the company is growing its opportunities. They include exclusive show and episode sponsorships and, eventually, co-branded podcasts and multi-platform campaigns across A+E's assets.

"We're developing branded segments or episodes that incorporate the sponsorship messaging and key themes within the episode," Danzis added. "We can actually write and develop an episode just for a specific client."

In one recent effort, audiobook publisher Audible sponsored two holiday-themed episodes of Lifetime's "I Love a Lifetime Movie" podcast. The campaign included custom host-read ads on the podcast, as well as activations on TV, digital and social. It's an example of A+E's capabilities to going well beyond "spots and dots," Danzis said.

Of course, some advertisers, particularly those who are new to podcasting, may want to start smaller. In that case, Danzis said A+E can offer single-show ad opportunities in year-round hits, including "This Week in History," "Cold Case Files," and "I Survived." "These provide the most scale, and they're always running, so they have the most frequency," she noted.

Whatever an advertiser's objective, A+E podcasts aim to provide a solution. "We were dipping our toe in before, and now we've fully jumped into the podcasting pool," Danzis concluded.

Click the social buttons to share this story with colleagues and friends.
The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.