Fledgling French podcast studio Paradiso is expanding to the U.S. and has tapped L.A.-based executive Emi Norris to develop a slate of original narrative podcasts, as well as adapt Paradiso’s hit formats for the U.S. and other English-speaking markets. Paradiso is Europe’s first podcast studio to expand to U.S. soil.
The company opened in France in September and was created by Lorenzo Benedetti, the founder of Studio Bagel and former director of digital creation at the Canal Plus Group; Louis Daboussy, the former CCO at Konbini; and Benoit Dunaigre, who formerly worked at Havas.
The banner specializes in the production of premium scripted, documentary and kids’ content for global platforms and bowed with commissions from Spotify and Sybel. One of the banner’s goals is also to build a library of formats that can be adapted into other media such as “Homecoming.”
Norris previously worked in digital publishing and was a content strategy consultant to Vice Media and VP of partnerships and distribution of Originals at Refinery29, where she notably worked on selling the podcast “Good As Hell” hosted by Lizzo and featuring Awkwafina, as well as the Big Beach-produced digital series “Strangers” for Facebook.
Norris began her career in production, working on films by director-producers Luca Guadagnino (“Melissa P.”) and Alfonso Cuarón (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Children of Men,” “Rudo y Cursi”). She also produced a documentary series on the U.S. elections for Sky Italia and later held senior positions in TV sales and digital distribution, handling films by Edward Burns, Richard Linklater and Alex Gibney.
As managing director of Paradiso’s new U.S. outpost, Norris will soon be hiring two executives to work in scripted and non-scripted.
“I’m honored that Lorenzo, Louis and Benoit have entrusted me to bring their vision of creating ‘cinema for the ears’ to the U.S.,” said Norris. “I admire their commitment to producing true adaptations, rather than simple translations, of global stories across borders and languages.”
She said that although the market for podcasts is getting highly competitive in the U.S., there is still a lot of room left for scripted podcasts. Norris cited the example of “Blood Ties” which proved highly popular and even ranked in the Apple Podcasts Top 100, which, along with appearing in top charts of other leading platforms such as Spotify and Audible, is one of the leading benchmarks of success in U.S.
Norris pointed out that another area with high growth potential was programming skewing towards millennials and kids.
“Podcasts get a very strong showing in the millennials demo – 39% of U.S. podcast listeners are between 18 and 34,” said the executive, adding that there is also a “worldwide backlash against screens when it comes to kids, so podcasts are a nice alternative.”
She said Paradiso also stands out thanks to its European footprint.
“We see ourselves as a global company with European roots. We aim to identify stories with universal appeal, then adapt them to each market. As podcast platforms and creators become more international, we would love to be a two-way avenue for both content and talent. We are also a studio, not a network, which enables us to create content that caters to each of our partners’ unique audiences,” said Norris.
The company is being backed by Rodolphe Belmer, the former head of Canal Plus Group who is now on Netflix’s board of directors; Mediawan, chaired by Pierre-Antoine Capton; Grégory Dray of Google; Julien Leroux of Cineflix Media; and the production company Iconoclast. “With these well-established companies and executives supporting us, we’re well positioned to leverage relationships and access talent from the U.S. and Europe. “
Paradiso’s current slate includes the Spotify-commissioned “The Promo Hotline,” a comedy interview format written and directed by Géraldine de Margerie (“Call My Agent!”) and featuring France’s top names in music and comedy; “Chosen,” a thriller in the style of true crime in which a teenager documents her friends carrying out dares that turn deadly; and “Pockmarked,” an eight-part docuseries tracing the true story of a French serial killer on the run for 33 years.
Both “Chosen” and “Pockmarked” have been commissioned by Sybel. The company has another fiction podcast in production with Spotify with an A-list cast attached, and an additional dozen shows in development.
Paradiso also recently scored an exclusive worldwide production deal with Brut., the digital company whose flagship podcast topped rankings on Spotify in France after just 10 days.
Company partner Benedetti is one of the pioneers of high-concept audio creation in Europe. His production credits include “Calls,” a suspense series created by Timothée Hochet, which boasted a star-studded voice cast and featured audio recordings found after mysterious, tragic events.
The series was broadcast on Canal Plus and acquired by Apple for an international remake that is currently in production.