Office With a View: Daniel Powell and Alex Bach’s sister company Radio Point lets them explore new genres at a fraction of the cost of TV
They started Radio Point with Smartless Media president Richard Korson and Houston Snyder of Great City Post in 2018 and have created podcasts based on existing IP, like Marvel’s “Squirrel Girl,” as well as produced their first game show and kids content. The immediate rewards might be lower with podcasting, but so are the risks, and the investment.
While podcasting is facing the same economic setbacks as the rest of Hollywood, one of their flagship shows, “Ruined,” in which die-hard horror fan Halle Keifer “ruins” a horror film for scaredy-cat BFF Alison Leiby, has just landed a big partnership deal that will be announced soon.
Bach and Powell spoke to TheWrap about what they’ve gained and learned from running a dedicated podcast company.
Why did you decide to found Radio Point?
Daniel Powell: Early in Irony Point’s lifespan, we purchased a post-production facility that focuses on audio, Great City Productions, which is based in Chelsea. As someone who came up through the development side of things, you’re always looking for ways to incubate development and figure out how to make a concept for a TV show or movie come to life.
Does having a built-in audio team set Radio Point apart from other podcasting companies?
Powell: I’m not gonna say nobody else is doing it, but if you want to do a podcast that has really robust sound design, or as a scripted element, that does require a very specific skill set. And those are people that we have not just in our Rolodex but on staff.
Is scripted a growing segment in podcasting?
Alex Bach: There isn’t necessarily an aggressive push towards narrative fiction podcasts. But people are getting more comfortable with the audio format, enough to try it. We see that a lot with buyers.
What advantages does working in the podcast space have over TV and film?
Powell: Doing an eight-episode scripted podcast costs literally a fraction of what a single episode of television costs. Sometimes if we feel strongly about it creatively, we’ll just make it and then look at it. Some things only really work In the audio space, but if it is something that could potentially translate [to TV], then it’s a great development step and proof of concept, or even just a developmental tool in terms of fleshing out the world and the characters.
Bach: Sometimes things get caught in development hell, but [with podcasting], you can really hit the ground running, get something up, pilot it — which is always the longest part — and then be off making an always-on, 45-episode show. We also have the ability to work in different genres that would be a stretch for Irony Point. For example, the “Who Was” podcast was our first foray into kids content. Now we have another animation kids company, a joint venture with Augenblick Studios called Future Brain Media. And through that, we just released a PBS Kids series called “City Island.”
Powell: A scripted podcast can be proof of concept. Instead of sending a deck or a script, [prospective partners] can listen to a completed podcast and decide if it makes sense. In television, given how many decks and scripts executives are sent every year, I feel like having something in a different medium is more interesting than the traditional pitches that they get.
What’s your advice for other production companies who are thinking about launching a podcast arm?
Powell: Look, the margins are small in podcasting. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a moneymaking venture. For us, it’s very much a developmental tool for talent and for concepts.
Most of the money that we make in podcasts, to be candid, is as producers for hire where we’re brought in to help execute something that’s already been set up, as opposed to something that we’ve sold. But also, as an extension of Irony Point, it helps with talent relations and talent development. I don’t know that I would necessarily start a podcast company and only focus on that. But as an extension of our TV operation, we’ve found that it helps bolster that side of things as well. The two companies operate in tandem.
What are some other downsides?
Bach: I find myself having to explain to reps or talent that podcast deals don’t make as much. You can get pretty far down the line in negotiating a podcast deal and there’s some sticking point, and the deal just doesn’t make. I always warn people: “Buckle up, because this deal is going to take six months to do,” which is crazy, because there’s not that much money on the table.
What are some things you can do in podcasting that you can’t do in other mediums?
Bach: I’m extremely interested in doing things that push the format. Podcasting is going into video and all these other mediums, but I’m interested in the evolution of the form itself and what creators will do with that, given a great support system and the freedom to take some swings. We were in talks with a big studio about a narrative podcast, where there are audio cues that indicate a supernatural element that is a communication tool between the characters. The idea of simply using the audio cues to tell the story is very exciting.
Sharon Knolle is a TV Reporter at TheWrap. She has covered entertainment news for more than 20 years for outlets including Moviefone, IMDb, USA Today, Variety, Us Weekly, Paste and the Sundance Institute. She is also the founder of Moviepaws.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sknolle