EXCLUSIVE: With podcasting continuing to surge as a form of media and entertainment, and audio properties increasingly of interest to the film and TV business, MGM is taking a stake in a new entrant in the field called Audio Up.
The company was founded by Jared Gutstadt, former founder and CEO of the audio agency Jingle Punks, as a production studio, platform and network dedicated to podcasts. Its debut title last month was the Dennis Quaid-hosted interview show The Dennissance.
Audio Up’s scope includes scripted podcasts, including musicals, as well as interview series. As part of MGM’s investment, Audio Up will produce and distribute up to five podcasts per year for MGM and give its new investor an exclusive first look at developing, producing or distributing adaptations of its work.
Financial terms of the investment were not disclosed. MGM is privately held. The news of the stake comes amid a shutdown of production due to COVID-19. The pandemic has hit all studios hard, with MGM recently confirming it has let go of 7% of its total workforce of 750.
“In this transformative time in our industry, it is more important than ever to align with the best and most forward-looking partners,” MGM’s Worldwide Television Chairman Mark Burnett said. “Jared and his team have been incredibly innovative in their approach and programming offerings, and with this new venture, MGM is able to further diversify our content pipeline while rapidly accelerating our expansion into new storytelling platforms.”
Gutstadt said teaming up with MGM “made sense from the start for a podcast network such as ours. To have a throughput capability from day one with a major studio is something that’s going to set us apart from the rest of our competition. Conversely, their ability to take film and TV content and have it reformatted and redistributed through the realm of Audio Up will help grow our catalog and create a giant network effect between our worlds.”
Quaid, in addition to speaking with actors, politicians, personalities, musicians and business figures on The Dennissance, will also be voice talent and a co-executive producer on Audio Up’s Make it Up As We Go. The latter series features original songs, a cast including co-creator, Scarlett Burke, and actor Craig Robinson and original music by Burke and songwriter Nicolle Galyon. Audio Up plans to release a soundtrack for the podcast.
Other projects in the works at Audio Up include Uncle Drank, which will involve country music artists and Warner Music and a scripted podcast featuring NBA player Javale McGee.
The deal was negotiated by MGM’s President of Television Operations, Brian Edwards, with support from Paul Chan, Michael Katzer and Mariel Klein. Edwards will join Audio Up’s board of directors. Sandi Knox, Nick DeAngelis and Sally Wagner Partin at Sidley Austin led the negotiation process for Audio Up.
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