EXCLUSIVE: Burgeoning British podcast studio Novel is making a big U.S. play, hiring senior execs from The Daily and Today in Focus, striking a partnership with UTA and opening up conversations over TV and film adaptations.
The London-headquartered outfit, which calls itself the “biggest podcast production studio in Europe,” launched six years ago and has created around 41 shows for the likes of the BBC, Spotify and Audible including the award-winning Bellingcat Podcast and The Superhero Complex. With staff numbers increasing almost tenfold since the pandemic started, Novel is now pivoting focus across the pond and it already makes around half its revenue in the U.S.
In comes The Daily Senior Audio Producer Austin Mitchell as Creative Director, Production, while The Guardian’s Today In Focus’ Joint Exec Mythili Rao, who used to work for The New Yorker, will soon join as Managing Editor.
A Communications and Marketing Lead, Indira Birnie, has also recently joined from Penguin Random House and another signature hire is expected in the near future, Deadline understands.
Novel Founder Sean Glynn described Mitchell as “one of the best narrative podcast producers around” and said he will help the company compete with the biggest podcast-makers in the narrative storytelling space.
“We want to make things at the highest possible quality with the budgets we get,” he told Deadline. “This is a real step into the U.S. to compete with companies that are much bigger than us. The U.S. is where the most exciting things are happening.”
Novel is forging 11 narrative podcasts over the next three years as part of a deal with iHeartMedia and has also signed similar deals with Wondery and UTA.
The latter tie-up could be transformational and will help Novel strike audio distribution deals, leverage IP and attach top-quality talent to its shows, as UTA pushes further into the international audio space. UTA has done many of Novel’s recent deals.
Shelby Schenkman, UTA Agent in Audio, said: “From day one of seeing Novel’s hustle we saw them as one of the most premium companies in the UK. They are hungry to break into the market and we want to capture that moment as UTA expands audio internationally.”
Novel Managing Director Matt O’Mara, the former CEO of Vice UK who took up his post a year ago, said the company will now seek alternative funding models away from the traditional ‘work for hire’, while he is interested in working on lucrative TV and film adaptations, a space where Wondery has found success with the likes of Peacock’s Doctor Death TV remake.
“A big part of our pitch is to tell people that what we do in audio can be exploited in TV and film,” he added.
“We want to have a front row as this expands and are exploring funding mechanisms for greater self-funding. Getting rid of ‘work for hire’ allows you to own more of a piece of the pie.”