CNN Audio 220

Seeing the success NBC News has had leveraging its shows as podcasts, other television news outlets are racing to do the same. CNN, which has made some overtures to broadcast radio over the years – most recently as part of a deal with Westwood One to distribute some of its content to stations – says it plans to release as many as a dozen new podcasts in 2020. Under new owner AT&T’s WarnerMedia, the network has launched a new group called CNN Audio, which after several hires Digiday reports now includes “several dozen” employees working on audio content including podcasts.

“CNN has really experimented with audio in the past without going all in,” said Courtney Coupe, VP of CNN Digital Productions. “What we needed to do was not jump on a bandwagon and make sure we were examining every aspect of the audio business and be thinking about audio in a much bigger way than just podcasts,” she told Digiday.

The first podcast CNN is rolling out as part of the effort is The Jeffrey Epstein I Knew. The seven-episode show will be hosted by CNN reporter Vicky Ward, who had been following the now-dead billionaire. It is set to debut in the coming weeks. While it’s the first new original show for CNN Audio, the network already makes a number of its shows and documentary specials available as a podcast. It also has quietly collected several political podcasts such as The Point with Chris Cillizza and Lauren Dezenski and The Forecast Fest with Harry Enten, Kate Bolduan and John Avlon, as well as other shows like the business podcast Boss Files.

Earlier this month CNN political commentator David Alexrod announced he’d return his The Axe Files podcast to CNN Audio, where it had been from 2016 until early 2019, when the show jumped to Luminary.

Coupe told Digiday that CNN is already seeing interest in the podcasts it has created to date. She said that the Impeachment Watch series had more than three million downloads within two weeks of its launch in October. And the company says its average monthly downloads increased to 21 million in 2019, up from 12.9 million a year earlier.

CNN isn’t alone. NBC News has been dedicating more resources to podcasting and it’s paying off. Podtrac said NBC was the tenth-biggest podcaster in December among publishers it tracks. ABC News has also been expanding its reach into podcasting. It launched its own Jeffrey Epstein-related podcast this month tied to a 20/20 episode. ABC has just announced it will repeat that formula in February when it launches the podcast Cutthroat Inc. The series will be a follow-up to a 20/20 episode that tells the story of an elaborate murder plan hatched by a California man to kill his business partner.