The NBCUniversal-owned studio Universal Content Productions will be launching UCP Audio, digging deep into the podcast space. UCP Audio will be a flagship podcast network, set to provide both scripted and unscripted podcasts. UCP Audio will notably launch with an offering from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail that features LaKeith Stanfield (Get Out). The network will launch in 2020.
UCP Audio is headed by Dawn Olmstead, president of UCP and Wilshire Studios. It will extend the studio’s existing work beyond its adaptations of current podcasts like Dr. Death, Dirty John, Joe Exotic, and Homecoming (executive produced by Esmail). Olmstead expressed excitement about the new project:
“We at UCP are excited about all the potential that lives in the audio space. For the last several years we have been avid listeners and adapters. After the experience of adapting Dirty John, Homecoming, Dr. Death and more, we are firm believers that audio is as important for IP creation as books, film and television. With the launch of UCP Audio we can offer storytellers the opportunity to write for multiple platforms, making UCP a one-stop shop for whatever story you want to tell.”
Forthcoming UCP Audio Projects
The new network will launch with the scripted Esmail podcast The End Up alongside two unscripted true-crime podcasts, House of Prayer and an untitled teen industry project. After the network’s launch, episodes will debut weekly.
The End Up
UCP Audio’s scripted launch podcast, produced by Esmail Corp, will be written, directed, and produced by Will Weggel and Danny Luber. It is set in a near-future where cancer patients are allowed assisted suicide if they attend a bootcamp offering an “elegant offramp to life”. Two best friends discover after one enrolls in the bootcamp that the promised ‘elegant’ end is not what it seems.
Weggel is a screenwriter who worked on the HBO Max series Made For Love and currently writes for HBO Max’s Station Eleven. He started his career on UCP’s Homecoming. Luber is a podcast producer and writer.
House of Prayer
This unscripted podcast centers on the aftermath of a daughter’s memories of her mother’s crimes and subsequent call to police. The call starts in motion an investigation into a cult, a child’s disappearance, and murder. Hosting the podcast is Beth Karas of Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers.
The untitled troubled teen industry podcast
This unscripted podcast will focus on the search for a missing teen. Hosted by journalist Josh Bloch (Uncover: Escaping NXIVM), this podcast highlights the dark business of ‘therapeutic schools’, their political ties, and a dangerous American cult.
Podcasting is still an incredibly lucrative industry, with podcast episode production a great way to reach audiences. According to Podcast Insights, as of June 2019 there are reportedly over 750,000 with over 30 million episodes together. 51% of the US population has listened to a podcast, with 80% listening to all or most of an individual episode. Podcasts are a promising way for large content producers to diversify into different spaces and reach more varied audiences than may be likely with current TV or other media trends.