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Insider: July 10, 2020

Hollywood Scrambles Hanna Rosin to New York Canadian Expansions... and more!

The diminishing TV stockpile. Mark Harris has an intriguing piece out at Vulture about the scramble going on behind the scenes in Hollywood with regards to forthcoming production. Major network shows cut short their seasons and there have been various experiments in remote filming during quarantine (the Parks & Rec reunion, for instance), but eventually the stockpile of pre recorded shows is going to run out, and that’s a pretty scary prospect for studios right now.

Filming is cautiously resuming on a few soaps, with other kinds of shows also hoping to start again soon, albeit in changed circumstances — no more big location shoots, for instance, or flying in guest stars for a couple of episodes. Expect plenty of bottle episodes, basically. And with new case numbers going the way they are in the US, who knows how long this new tentative reality can last, but for now the entertainment business is certainly trying to reopen safely.

This matters to the podcast industry because of how enmeshed these two ecosystems have become in recent years. That podcast to TV pipeline — and all of the production shops set up to supply it — only works when there’s actually TV being made, of course. Even when safe production does resume on a reasonable scale, there’s going to be a major backlog of projects waiting to get made.

And then there’s the corollary effect that we’ve already seen a fair amount of during lockdown: talent that would usually be working in film or TV turning to audio. By that I mean both that we should expect yet more celebrity interview podcasts, but also perhaps more high profile turns in audio dramas and voice roles, as it becomes clear that streamlined audio production is so much easier to get off the ground.Revolving door. Hanna Rosin’s departure from Invisibilia was part of a package of changes announced for the NPR podcast last month. Now, we know where she’s going: Rosin will be editorial director for audio at New York magazine. Here’s a glimpse of her responsibilities, from the announcement post:

“As editorial director for audio, Hanna Rosin will lead the direction of New York’s podcast ambitions, both supporting existing podcast programming — including Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway’s Pivot, Jesse David Fox’s Good One, and the upcoming podcast from The Cut — and greatly expanding New York’s footprint in a variety of podcast formats. Rosin will work closely with the Vox Media Podcast Network team, including Nishat Kurwa, VP & executive producer, audio, but be rooted at the magazine.”Canadian ad sales updates. The Podcast Exchange (TPX), which launched back in 2018 and claims to be the biggest company of its kind in Canada, has partnered with Triton Digital to provide programmatic advertising. The deal, they say, is the product of a year long search for a solution that met their criteria for brand safety and transparency. Back in March, Canadian music streaming company Stingray acquired 30 per cent of TPX. At the time of that deal, TPX was working with “thousands of shows with over 70 million impressions per month”. A cool element of the podcast ad business in Canada? They handle inventory in both federal languages: English and French.

Wondery has also made a move on advertising representation in Canada this week, signing an exclusive deal with DAX as its sales partner for its Canadian inventory. DAX, as a reminder, is the digital advertising subsidiary of Global, which operates a number of commercial radio stations in the UK.BBC license fee row. After a few months of surprising cooperation with the UK government during the coronavirus lockdown, the BBC is once more at odds with ministers over its funding. The BBC had delayed ending universal free TV licenses (the main mechanism through which the corporation receives its funding from the public) for over 75s because of the onset of the pandemic, but BBC chairman David Clementi has now said it will go ahead. From 1 August, only over 75s receiving the pension credit benefit will get a free license, with the rest expected to pay (as those under 75 already have to do). For reference, an annual license is £157.50 or around $200.

The decision about how to charge the license fee used to reside with the government, but in 2015 then Chancellor George Osborne transferred the responsibility for this policy to the BBC. It was always going to be an unpopular move to take away something free from the over 75s, and now the government gets to express its “regret” that the BBC failed to find sufficient cuts elsewhere to save these free licenses for pensioners not on welfare, rather than being stuck with the blame. It’s a tough situation for the BBC, which is under pressure on one side from its regulator to invest more in winning back younger audiences, and on the other from a government that is keen to court the votes of older people.Audioboom departs India. Audioboom has announced that it is closing its Indian operation and will be focusing on the US and the UK markets in future — existing Audioboom shows in the country can still host with them for a time while they find an alternative, though. Podcaster Amar Deshpande, who began working with the company in 2016 and had 15 shows with them through his gaatha story network, has written a long post about the change. In it, he talks about how podcasting has moved on in India in the last 5 years and looks at where Audioboom contributed to that. It’s worth a read.ZigZag returns with TED. Back in May, Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant — the creative partnership behind Stable Genius Productions and the erstwhile Radiotopia podcast ZigZag — announced that they were ceasing their work together in part because of coronavirus. Now, Zomorodi is bringing back ZigZag for a new season by herself as part of the TED brand (where she is also the host of TED Radio Hour). The first episode of this new incarnation drops on 16 July and the season “profiles six unusual dynamos reinventing business, various industries, and even capitalism in the name of humanity”.Times Radio so far. Rupert Murdoch’s new radio venture Times Radio launched in the UK two weeks ago, and I thought it was worth highlighting Observer critic Miranda Sawyer’s take on how the station is doing so far (you might remember that we interviewed her back in April). Pre launch, Times Radio was billed as a competitor to BBC Radio 4, and indeed recruited some talent that had previously appeared on station, including John Pienaar and Aasmah Mir.

But without the budget for the slower documentaries and dramas that make up the Radio 4 schedule, Sawyer says, Times Radio sounds a lot more like BBC Radio 5Live, which is primarily populated by cheaper-to-make live call in shows about politics and sport. The newcomer also has the problem that it doesn’t yet have enough listeners to run phone-ins, making it more of a “5 Lite” that doesn’t quite yet fit the fruity, old fashioned middle class branding of the Times newspaper, its namesake.