Wondery Orders ‘Dr. Death’ Season 2, Pacts With Lewis Howes Amid Expanding Original Podcast Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

Dr. Death - Wondery
Courtesy of Wondery

Wondery, the podcast industry’s largest independent publisher, is bringing back hit true-crime show “Dr. Death” for a second season in the fall of 2020.

Season 2 of “Dr. Death,” hosted by journalist Laura Beil, will feature two new cases of doctors betraying their oath — leading to fatal outcomes for their patients. The sophomore season will launch simultaneously with the TV adaptation of the original “Dr. Death” on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. The “Dr. Death” television series is produced by Universal Content Productions, directed by Stephen Frears, and stars Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater and Jamie Dornan, who portrays the real-life ex-neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Duntsch.

“I am thrilled to once again be working with Wondery on ‘Dr. Death’ S2 and to use their platform to bring light, awareness and ultimately action against broken systems,” Beil said in a statement. Beil also hosts Wondery’s “Bad Batch,” a six-part investigative series examining cases in which patients end up in critical condition after being administered a promised miracle cure.

Following the release of Season 1 of “Dr. Death,” Wondery asked listeners to send in stories about bad doctors, “and we got, unfortunately, too many tips,” founder and CEO Hernan Lopez said.

Wondery also announced a deal with Lewis Howes, host of “The School of Greatness,” which ranks in the top 100 on Apple Podcasts. Wondery will provide ad sales and audience development for Howes’ podcast. Howes, a former NFL player, author and lifestyle entrepreneur, has interviewed guests on his program including Kobe Bryant, Brian Grazer and Wim Hof.

“To have the support of Wondery, and for them to see the value of the brand we have built and the growth potential of our show is a huge milestone,” Howes said in a statement. “We look forward to being on this journey with them — reaching new audiences, working with new partners and guests and continuing to tell best-in-class stories.”

L.A.-based Wondery, founded by former Fox International TV exec Lopez in 2016, now produces or distributes 150 podcasts. The company scored eight of the top 20 most popular new shows of 2019 in the U.S., according to measurement firm Podtrac, and 25 of Wondery’s shows have hit No. 1 on Apple Podcasts.

Wondery claims to have more than 100 million podcast downloads per month in the U.S., when factoring in NBC News (34 million downloads) and All Things Comedy (20 million). For Wondery’s own originals, it registered 52.6 million downloads or streams in the U.S., per Podtrac, putting it behind NPR (154 million) and iHeartRadio (150 million). The company is aiming for bigger international reach: For example, it has released versions of “Dr. Death” translated into seven different non-English languages.

“Our library of shows is designed to be evergreen and immersive, and all told in the same style,” Lopez said. “We want to be like Pixar or Marvel — to have a kind of podcast people can identify because of our sound design, story choice and how we tell stories.”

Wondery has grown its slate across multiple genres with original podcasts and via exclusive distribution partnerships with All Things Comedy, NBC News and The Athletic. The lineup spans true crime (“Dr. Death,” “Generation Why,” “The Vanished”), business (“Business Wars”), history (“American History Tellers,” “American Elections,” “Tides of History”), science (“American Innovations”), sports (“The Lead,” “Sports Wars”), society and culture (“The Shrink Next Door,” “Dirty John”), talk shows (“Imagined Life,” “Life Is Short with Justin Long,” “The Next Big Idea” hosted by Rufus Griscom).

Adding to Wondery’s slate of original podcasts are five new shows rolling out over the next few months:

  • “Dying for Sex” (premiering Feb. 12): When host Nikki Boyer’s best friend Molly is diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, she decides to leave an unhappy marriage — embarking on a series of sexual adventures to feel alive.
  • “The Dating Game Killer” (premiering March 5): The team behind “Hollywood & Crime” returns with the story of the prolific serial killer who had the audacity to go on a dating game show on national television while in the midst of a killing spree.
  • “Even the Rich” (premiering March 10): An ongoing show that takes a comedic and cutting look at some of the world’s most powerful and famous families, like the British Royals, Kardashians, Murdochs and Trumps. Hosted by Brooke Siffrin and Aricia Skidmore-Williams — comedians who met in L.A. valet parking cars for celebrities — the podcast will explore how celebrities’ private lives become public obsessions.
  • “Bunga Bunga” (premiering April 21): Tells the story of Silvio Berlusconi, a businessman who knew how to use TV to build his brand. He went on to become prime minister of Italy, amid accusations of wrongdoing and questions about the source of his wealth.
  • “Guru” (premiere date TBD): A true-crime show in which a group of strangers seek a self-help guru’s unorthodox method for improvement and economic advice. With praises from Oprah and a career that was taking off, the story unfolds to uncover his extreme methods of pushing his students to their limits and what happens when it all goes too far.

On the TV front, Wondery currently has 11 podcasts in various stages of development, production or release as television shows including “Dr. Death.” This fall, “Dirty John” is launching its second season on USA with new co-stars Christian Slater and Amanda Peet; others in development include adaptations of “Over My Dead Body,” “WeCrashed” and “The Shrink Next Door.”

According to Lopez, more than half of privately held Wondery’s revenue in 2019 came from originals (including through TV deals) with the remainder ad revenue through sales-rep deals. The company’s investors include Waverley Capital, the VC firm formed by Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Luminari Capital’s Daniel Leff; Lerer Hippeau; Greycroft; BDMI; Advancit Capital; Water Tower Ventures; and Powerhouse Ventures.