Wondery is releasing episodes of the show, one of the most highly acclaimed podcasts of 2018, into neutral Spanish, Castilian Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, Portuguese and Korean. The L.A.-based company launched the first two episodes of the “Dr. Death” translated versions Thursday (Aug. 15) with distribution deals in key markets.
The original 10-episode “Dr. Death” podcast launched in September 2018 and has been downloaded over 50 million time to date, landing the No. 5 spot on Podtrac’s list of top podcasts released last year. Hosted by journalist Laura Beil, “Dr. Death” is based on the true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a rising star in the Dallas medical community who was building a flourishing neurosurgery practice — before two of his patients died on the operating table and 31 others ended up maimed.
Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez noted that 90% of the world’s smartphone users live outside of the U.S. — but only 22% of Wondery’s audience is currently international. He said Wondery plans to adapt other shows for non-English languages in the future.
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Lopez, the former Fox International TV distribution exec who founded the podcaster in 2016, compared Wondery’s international strategy to the announcement by Netflix in January 2016 at CES that it would expand into 130 countries and take its originals worldwide. There’s a big difference in terms of scale between the two companies, of course, and Wondery is a content producer and publisher rather than a platform like Netflix.
Wondery is working with Apple and Spotify to distribute the multilingual versions of “Dr. Death” in Europe, Asia and South and Central America. Simultaneously, Wondery announced distribution deals with Ximalaya, a direct-to-consumer streaming audio platform in China; Korea’s Podbbang; Deezer and Prisma Media in France; and RTL Radio’s Audio Now in Germany.
In addition, Wondery has inked advertising representation deals with Cisneros Interactive’s Audio.Ad for Latin America and Brazil, and Bertelsmann units Ad Alliance (Germany) and Prisma Media (France).
“Dr. Death” episodes 1 and 2 are available in the seven languages Aug. 15, with episodes 3-6 to be available weekly. (Episodes 7-10 of the show were bonus episodes that are not being released in non-English languages.) Wondery’s team worked collaboratively with dubbing house BTI Studios to produce versions of “Dr. Death” with narrators in Germany, France, China, Spain, Korea, Brazil and Colombia using the original’s sound design, style guide, voice direction and script review. Beil recorded a special trailer to promote the launch in the main English-language “Dr. Death” feed.
As part of Wondery’s global expansion, this summer it hired Declan Moore, most recently CEO of National Geographic Partners, to head international operations out of the U.K.
Wondery isn’t the only podcast company turning its eyes to international expansion. Radio giant iHeartMedia earlier this month announced that by the first quarter of 2020, it plans to release translated versions of six podcasts series — including long-running hit “Stuff You Should Know” — into multiple languages including Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, French and German.
Meanwhile, “Dr. Death” is being adapted for television by Universal Content Productions, which also produced the TV adaptation of Wondery’s “Dirty John” (moving to USA for season 2 after its debut on Bravo).
The TV version of “Dr. Death” is set to star Jamie Dornan (as Duntsch) alongside Alec Baldwin, and Christian Slater. Patrick McManus will executive produce “Dr. Death” under his overall deal with UCP. Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch will executive produce for Escape Artists along with Hernan Lopez and Marshall Lewy of Wondery.
Other Wondery series have been optioned for TV by Universal Content Productions, FX and WarnerMedia, including “Over My Dead Body,” to be produced and directed by Elizabeth Banks for WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service.