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Tracking: February 25, 2020

Revolving Door. Mildly eye-catching piece of news: last Friday, Deadline reported that Neil Drumming, a producer at This American Life, is moving over to Serial Productions. He’s taking up the position of managing editor, where he will reportedly “lead the expansion of Serial Productions’ development slate, recruiting producers, writers and reporters to develop fiction and non-fiction podcasts.” Drumming, who is also a filmmaker, previously worked with Serial Productions as an editor on S-Town.

It’s a somewhat wonky development, and potentially a little confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the relationship between the two companies. Housing Serial and S-Town, Serial Productions is a separate spin-off entity from This American Life. That production company was first formed in early 2017, and as far as I know, continues to be co-owned by Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig, and Ira Glass. My understanding is that talent flows somewhat freely between the two sister companies. In the case of S-Town, for example, creator Brian Reed was considered on leave from This American Life, where he is a producer, to work on the podcast.

Two quick notes. Firstly, this particular staff move would have been pure inside baseball if it happened at any other point over the past three years — one that I still would’ve happily written about, by the way — but it just so happens to come about a month after the Wall Street Journal reported that Serial Productions is exploring a sale, with the New York Times beng cited by “a person familiar with the matter” as a potential buyer. This gives this personnel move a little more weight, and you can bet the family farm that the close timing between these two developments has kicked up a fair amount of chin-stroking among the Hot Pod readership.

Secondly, I just wanted to draw attention to this quote by Serial Productions CEO Julie Snyder in the Deadline piece: “Five years ago, with the release of Serial, we invented a new kind of audio storytelling.” Given everything that’s happened to podcasting over the last five years — including, I should add, multiple cycles of folks trying to do the whole “did Serial actually kick off the podcast boom?” thing (it happens!) — I, for one, am glad to see this type of muscle flexing.

This Week in Hollywood. Looks like Slate’s Slow Burn is getting a second TV adaptation, after the Leon Neyfakh-narrated documentary series on Watergate that hit EPIX last week. Deadline reports that the Martha Mitchell thread of the podcast’s first season will be the subject of a TV drama that will star Julia Roberts and be produced by Sam Esmail. (The two had already worked on another podcast-to-TV adaptation: Amazon Video’s Homecoming.)

According to Deadline, the project will be shopped around to “premium and streaming platforms” by NBCUniversal Content Studios, which did the same thing with several other podcast adaptations, including the aforementioned Homecoming and two Wondery projects, Dr. Death and Dirty John.

Two quick things. Firstly, this Martha Mitchell project will be called “Gaslit.” Coincidentally, it almost shares a name with a recent fiction podcast by QCODE, “Gaslight” (starring Chloe Grace Moretz), which was one of those audio projects obviously meant to serve a cost-effective proof-of-concept for future film/television adaptation.

The second thing is a lukewarm take: I reckon the whole streaming wars — with its marginal reduction of barriers-to-entry for television and subsequent elevation of demand for more projects and assets, all of which are couched in a fever of competition — has been a very good thing for podcast-to-TV adaptation aspirants.