Tenderfoot TV, the company behind the hit Atlanta Monster and Up and Vanished podcasts, is looking to take advantage of the boom in the audio genre and is plotting a slew of music and sports-set true crime podcasts as well as IP that can be translated for television.
The company, which is run by Donald Albright and Payne Lindsey, has had more than 380M downloads for its podcasts and co-produced a TV adaptation of Up and Vanished for Oxygen with Ben Silverman’s Propagate Content. Its latest podcast, To Live and Die in LA with The Dirt author and Rolling Stone writer Neil Strauss, is set to conclude May 16.
Albright told Deadline how the company started and outlined the pair’s plans to scale up their nascent media business.
Tenderfoot TV started with Up and Vanished, a podcast that followed the case of the mysterious disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a Georgia beauty queen and school teacher who went missing in 2005.
Lindsey, who previously directed music videos, had a local connection to the case, which occurred near his grandmother’s house. He had worked with Albright, who had spent over twenty years in the music industry, on a series of videos and the pair decided they wanted to try something new. “I was getting burnt out in the music industry and Payne wanted to do a documentary like Making A Murderer or The Jinx. I was jumping at the chance to do something different,” he said.
That story has received over 300M downloads and aired as a special on Oxygen in November.
“We started to get a bit more strategic after Up and Vanished season one, the second thing we did was we saw that we had this huge audience and we asked whether we could transition that into a new podcast, which became Sworn,” he added.
Atlanta Monster came next and scored huge attention for shining a spotlight on the Atlanta Child Murders, which occurred between 1979 and 1981. Albright, who grew up in the city, said that the success of Atlanta Monster, which came hot on the heels of the likes of Serial, was down to the audience’s huge appetite for true crime stories. “It’s about the mystery. You don’t need star power or a different story each week if you have one good story that can be told in long-form that has mystery it will keep you coming back. We all have that desire to figure something out. With podcasting, there’s a personal connection, so there’s ownership over the content, it’s right in your ear buds or in your car,” he said.
Tenderfoot, which is repped by UTA’s Grace Royer and Oren Rosenbaum, who is leading the charge with podcast to TV and film adaptations, is now in talks with production companies and networks to develop a series based on the story. “We’re figuring out the best way to do it,” Albright said.
But he added that as a small company, the pair want to take a slightly different approach to development. “We quickly realized that it costs a lot of money [to make documentaries]. A podcast has a low bar of entry but now we can take the same brand and case and get back to where we wanted to be originally and make a television show. We want to create a podcast that is bigger and create stories that are adaptable. We’re playing around with a few ideas, to work in conjunction with podcasting to TV or film.”
IP ownership is essential, he added. “Once you develop it and own the IP, there’s a market for it, we have much more leverage when we go to TV than if we were new creators in the TV space. If I come up with an idea for TV, I’m going to ask how do we do it as a podcast first because I can then prep the audience and then can schedule that release around when I’m planning to pitch to networks,” he said.
The company is now looking to expand its slate, but wants to do so gradually. “We’re a small, self-funded company that has never taken a dime of investment so we want to venture into other avenues but we’re going to do it slowly. We might do some hybrid stories with true crime and sports or true crime and music and then slowly get into other genres. We’re also looking at getting into scripted with the same suspense or mystery that is in our unscripted podcasts. We want to really make an effort to get into that space as well. We’re not going to slow down,” he added.
Music stories are an area that hasn’t yet taken off in the medium and given Albright’s past experiences, he wants to crack this. But he says musicians need to be educated that it’s a format that can work for them, despite not being able to hand over large upfront cheques that they might receive in other areas of their work. He points to stories such as Mogul, the story of hip-hop pioneer Chris Lighty, as one that is slowly opening the door. “It’s going to take the right artist to tell their story to make sense for everyone else. We’re educating people about what a podcast is, that it could be the place to tell your story that doesn’t actually spoil you telling your story on Netflix [as well].”
Its latest podcast is Strauss’ How To Live and Die In LA, which tells the tale of the disappearance of aspiring actress Adea Shabani. The show, which is produced in association with Cadence13, takes a surprising, and real-time, deep dive into Shabani’s disappearance, who vanished without a trace from her apartment complex near Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The show ends May 16.