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Movie Studio Lionsgate Launches New Podcast Unit With 50 Cent Among Its First Producers.

Movie and television studios have spent the past several years testing the theory that good stories can be translated from the audio podcast to the screen. That has meant inking deals with the creators of successful podcasts. Now more Hollywood studios are launching their own podcast divisions in-house, cutting out the middleman while at the same time bringing big stars and new respect to podcasting.

The latest to join the club is Lionsgate, which is launching a new division called Lionsgate Sound. The division will operate as a full-service podcast production company, handling podcast production for the studio’s film and television businesses while also overseeing all elements of podcast production for third party clients.

“We look forward to entering the rapidly expanding podcast market as a great source of exciting new properties as well as an opportunity to feed the growing demand for audio content with our films, television series, Starz original programming, and library titles,” said Joe Drake, Chair of the Motion Picture Group, and Kevin Beggs, Chair of the Lionsgate Television Group, in a joint statement. “This initiative demonstrates Lionsgate’s 360-degree approach to content, creating an opportunity for us to continue onscreen stories and make companion podcasts to serve fans of our IP while scaling the audience base for new projects.”

Lionsgate Sound will headed by Craig Piligian, who also leads the Lionsgate company Pilgrim Media Group. Piligian holds a minority stake in Lionsgate Sound and he will handle the day-to-day operations of the group, which will also be overseen by Pilgrim COO Gretchen Stockdale and Chief Content Officer Nicholas Caprio. Lionsgate Audio has also hired veteran BBC Radio and TV journalist and producer Charlie Webster to head up creative for the division. Weber previously created the BBC TV documentary “Nowhere to Run” and the podcasts Undiscussable, which was an investigative series into domestic abuse that gives a challenging rethinking of the issue, and My Sporting Mind, which was an intimate show that speaks to sports stars about mental health.

Other movie and TV producers have also been setting up their own podcast divisions. Endeavor, the entertainment and sports conglomerate, was one of the first when it launched Endeavor Audio in 2018. Others followed ranging from filmmaker J. J. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot which launched Bad Robot Audio last fall to the documentary film studio XTR, which created its audio-focused Radio XTR division last August. Others have opted to form alliances with established podcasters such as Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, which announced a partnership with iHeartMedia in December.

Four Shows At Launch, Dozen More In Production

Lionsgate Sound will launch with four shows including a Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson hosted and produced series about drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Its working title is Cuate/twin/: The Downfall of El Chapo and the show is produced by Jackson’s newly established G-Unit Audio, and exclusively distributed by the iHeartPodcast Network.

Other shows lined up include the interview podcast Playing Dead hosted by actor Michael Nathanson (Netflix’s “Marvel’s The Punisher”), an FBI-focused show called A Nation for Thieves hosted by actor Justin Shenkarow; and Died and Survived, a series detailing near-death experiences hosted by its own Charlie Webster.

Lionsgate Sound is also producing a true-crime thriller called The Lives and Deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman for exclusive distribution by Canadian broadcaster CBC. It is an eight-part “forensic biography” of the incredible rise and the tragic deaths of pharma billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife Honey. Lionsgate Audio says it has more than a dozen additional projects in the pipeline.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Curtis ‘50’ Cent Jackson and the other talented creators behind our upcoming shows,” said Piligian in the announcement. “With our strong lineup out of the gate, we are well-positioned to reach the next generation of consumers.”

While Piligian will handle the day-to-day operations of Lionsgate Sound, the group will be governed by a Board of Directors made up of Lionsgate executives. They include Scott Herbst, EVP & Head of Scripted Development at Lionsgate Television; Suzy Felfeli, Executive Director of Corporate Development; Lionsgate MPG development executive Scott O’Brien; as well as Pilgrim Media’s Piligian and Stockdale.

The company says Lionsgate EVP & Head of Global Products & Experiences Jenefer Brown has also been heavily involved with the initiative as a key facilitator across multiple content groups of cross-company IP.

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