Shonda Rhimes is telling timely new stories. This time, they’re podcasts
Untangle your ear buds and flash back to your morning commute, because Shondaland Audio and iHeartMedia are teaming up for three new original podcasts this month, with more to come in the months ahead.
In October, TV producer titan Shonda Rhimes, who executive produced “How to Get Away With Murder” in addition to being the showrunner of “Grey’s” and “Scandal,” inked a deal with iHeartMedia, the top global publisher of commercial podcasts.
On Tuesday, Rhimes’ production company announced exclusively to the Los Angeles Times the upcoming lineup of shows, which will be made with iHeartMedia and sponsored by GroupM.
“You Down?,” a talk-show-style podcast hosted by Obama’s Other Daughters — an L.A. comedy group of four Black women — kicks off the podcast series Tuesday. Next week will see the arrival of the historical true-crime show “Criminalia” and “Go Ask Ali,” hosted by actress Ali Wentworth.
In such a saturated podcast market (more than 800,000 active ones exist), these fresh shows might have a hard time cutting through the noise. But for Sandie Bailey, Shondaland Audio’s chief design and digital media officer, the content resonates with people — just as the “Grey’s” plots did.
“For us, it’s just about telling these stories the same way Shondaland has always told these stories,” she told The Times. “Through a lens of truth, through a lens of giving people a mirror into [and] a window into someone else’s point of view, in which they may see themselves, or hear their own story mirrored back at them.”
As coronavirus cases around the world have doubled in the last 45 days, more and more people are seeking out stories and turning toward comfort. And more Americans are listening to podcasts, too: In the early part of this year, almost 40% of the population had listened to a podcast in the last month.
But now people are seeking out different types of stories. Conal Byrne, the president of the iHeartPodcast Network, has had a hand in the podcast world for the last 15 years. After the early success of “hard-hitting, edgy, salacious, guilty-pleasure shows,” he said people have shifted their tastes in quarantine.
“They moved toward shows that felt a little more like companionship,” Byrne told The Times. “As I saw that shift happen, that made me feel like the Shondaland slate was even more timely and relevant… Anyone in any disposition right now in quarantine will have a choice to listen to something based on this slate.”
By early next year, that slate will expand to include “American Coup,” a scripted series exploring the story of First Lady Edith Wilson, who essentially took over the Oval Office; “#Matter,” a scripted drama about a reporter reflecting on a case of police brutality; and “Black Girl Lost,” which examines growing numbers of missing Black women and girls in a documentary style.
While a couple of these shows directly address concerns surfaced by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and an ongoing campaign for racial equity, the lineup has been months in the making.
“I think that some of the programming was, interestingly enough, already on the slate before we started to see this recent uprising,” Bailey said. “And it will be just absolutely amazing for us to get some of these stories told now.”
Byrne thinks the times are catching up to what Shondaland already wanted to talk about — “what we all should have been talking about anyway.”
“We saw a lot of media brands moving around launch dates, moving up and back launches to respond, to be relevant, and that’s good and fair. It just wasn’t really necessary with this slate,” he said. “It was already there.”
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