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Netflix’s Podcast Slate ‘Deepens’ Space Around Original Content, Programmers Say

It should come as no surprise that, in its quest to become a full-blown entertainment ecosystem, Netflix has built a roster of podcast programming to complement its scores or original series and films.

The programs recruit top talent and hosts to hang out and talk about the streaming giant’s TV and film content. It’s a savvy extension of marketing, but Netflix podcasts could also eventually become a source of original content. And though it’s still branded content, each one of the company’s podcasts tries to put a fresh spin on the show-related interviews and breakdowns.

Take the recently launched “Present Company with Krista Smith,” wherein the former Vanity Fair west coast editor and newly-minted Netflix consultant sits with megastars and tastemakers like Eddie Murphy, Marta Kauffman, Mary J. Blige and TED Talk supernova Brene Brown. The program gives the kind of lush editorial flourish Smith was known for in magazines and reinforces why the streamer got into business with those bold names in the first place.

Then there’s “Strong Black Legends,” where podcast star Tracy Clayton talks to formative black creators and icons like comedian Jackée Harry and director Robert Townsend, as well a self-interview series where stars pick from a fishbowl of questions called “I Hate Talking About Myself.” A second run of the latter kicks off on Monday, and will feature Jonathan Groff and Cameron Britton of “Mindhunter,” and Ben Platt and Zoey Deutch of Ryan Murphy’s inaugural Netflix series “The Politician.”

The most effective podcast tie-in for Netflix as a brand might be “You Can’t Make This Up,” which gives a behind-the-scenes look at how nonfiction filmmakers got their compelling true crime stories. As a genre, true crime accounts for four of the top ten podcasts in the country, according to online ranker Chartable. The number one most downloaded in the country is the Parcast Network’s “Today in True Crime.”

“We are always looking for different ways to engage with people,” said Rae Votta, podcast lead for the Netflix brand and editorial team. “We’re talking a lot with our documentary team about what opportunities are out there, as we are with scripted.”

Lexi Nsita, a director in Votta’s group, said the internal desire is “to get good at deepening the space around our shows.”

The pair acknowledged how many reported and scripted podcasts are being adapted, and said they were open to the idea of developing original ideas that their development teams could later use for films and series.

“We’re taking nothing off the table. We have a deeply engaged audience, a curious audience, who is always looking for more,” said Votta.

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