How Tegna Is Finding a Second Life for Old News Coverage With Podcasts Like ‘Bomber’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Tegna, which operates 49 broadcast TV stations in 41 markets, is using the digital age to breathe life back into its old news coverage. Last week, the Virginia-based broadcaster (which broke off from Gannett four years ago) announced the launch of Vault, a new digital content studio that will produce a mix of multimedia projects starting with true-crime podcasts, a format that has mushroomed in popularity over the past several years.

First up: “Bomber: Manhunt in Austin,” which premiered last week and details how law enforcement hunted down a serial bomber who brought 19 days of terror to the Texas capital last year. The podcast draws on the wealth of reporting by Tegna’s Austin-based KVUE — but the hope is to appeal to an even broader audience as it rolls out about two new podcasts per quarter.

“Our TV stations cover about one third of the country, whereas podcasts can be accessed from anywhere through platforms like Apple and Spotify,” Tegna chief digital officer Adam Ostrow said. “We think stories like ‘Bomber’ and the others in our pipeline will have appeal well beyond the markets where they originally took place.”

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For Ostrow, podcasts offer a way to lure listeners who might not otherwise tune into Tegna’s local news coverage. “The audience is also often consuming the content during their commute, so we’re reaching them during a time when the audience isn’t necessarily going to be thinking ‘local TV,”‘ he said. “We’re expanding the audience geographically as well as the hours available to us during the day.”

We caught up with Ostrow to discuss Tegna’s new push into podcasting and how the company is utilizing its new digital studio to stay relevant in a world beyond broadcast.

Adam Ostrow

What type of prep work does it take for a company that traditionally works in broadcast to jump into the audio space? 

I think the good news for us, and what gives us a bit of an advantage, is that we aren’t starting from scratch when it comes to the content. We have decades worth of true-crime stories across the archives of our TV stations that we’ll be able to draw upon for this initiative. 

For example, with “Bomber,” we have all of the coverage of the serial bombings that our station in Austin did last year, as well as hours and hours of audio and video that never made it to air. And we have the reporters that were there, who can add color and tell us where we need to be looking as we build out the narrative for the show.

The new muscle for us is telling those stories in a compelling way for audio. For that, we’ve brought in some outside expertise. In January, we hired Will Johnson as our EP. He spent a decade at Investigation Discovery and has been producing podcasts since the iPod came out. Beyond that, we’ve started to develop relationships with new partners, like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher so we can master the best practices for distributing our content in this world.

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It seems like every company and creator are launching podcasts. How does Tegna plan to stand out?

When we look at podcasts specifically, true crime is one of the most popular genres with listeners, about one-third of the top 50 podcasts on the charts right now are true crime. And that’s an area where we have so much material to work with, and data on stories that have resonated with communities all across the country. Combine that with the great storytelling that is core to Tegna’s DNA, and we think we have an opportunity to do impactful work that will resonate with audiences well beyond the markets in which we have TV stations.

But we do have massive distribution through our TV stations, on both broadcast and digital, which will be helpful as well. In aggregate, our stations have more than 25 million followers across social media. And when you look at a story like “Bomber,” you have something that originated in Austin, where we have KVUE, but also had tremendous interest across Texas, where we have stations that reach 87 percent of TV households. We’ll use that distribution to our advantage in getting the word out through on-air and digital promotions.

Tegna’s podcasts will draw from the company’s collection of investigative reporting; who is digging through all those old files and videos and what’s the process of finding the right story for the podcast?

We kicked off this initiative internally with a contest to get the best ideas from our stations, and the response was overwhelming.  Reporters were excited about the opportunity to follow up on cold cases and revisit stories that riveted their communities at some point in the past. For newer stories, most of the archive content is digitized and relatively easy to access — for some of the older ones, it will be a bit more laborious, but most of the content does still exist in some form. 

Now that we’ve taken an initial inventory of what’s out there, we have a small group internally — a greenlight committee of sorts — that is evaluating the ideas on a variety of criteria, such as the depth of archive material available, who we think the audience is and how we think the story will play in audio form. And then what the marketing and distribution plan will look like. “Bomber” checked all of these boxes given the intensity of the story, the extensive reporting KVUE had already done and the big footprint Tegna has in Texas.

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How does Tegna plan to monetize its podcasts?

Our primary focus, for now, is on producing great content and building an audience for our shows. But we think audio is a great ad format, so we will certainly look to integrate advertising down the road.

Do you have plans for Vault beyond new podcasts?

Longer term, we think there’s also a strong connection back to our core business of TV.  You’re already starting to see popular podcasts get adapted into shows for cable and SVOD platforms. So, if we’re successful, we think these stories can make for great television as well, on our platforms or elsewhere.


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Amanda Knox to Host True-Crime Podcast Series for Sundance

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Amanda Knox will host a true-crime podcast series, “The Truth About True Crime,” that will serve as a companion to SundanceTV’s upcoming documentaries, the network announced Saturday.

Knox will take a detailed look at the true crimes that are chronicled in the upcoming SundanceTV and Sundance Now documentary series “Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo,” “Killing for Love,” “The Preppie Murder: Death In Central Park” (working title) and “No One Saw A Thing.”

New episodes of “The Truth About True Crime” will premiere timed to each documentary.

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“Ministry of Evil,” which premieres on SundanceTV Wednesday, Feb. 27, chronicles the life and crimes of Tony Alamo, who, with his wife, Susan Alamo, became a born-again, fire-and-brimstone televangelist. The two launched The Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation in 1969, which soon evolved into a cult that is said to still operate today.

“After surviving my own true crime saga, I tend not to be a fan of the genre, because it so often veers into sensationalism at the expense of the human beings involved and the truth,” Knox said in a statement. “But these stories are very important when told with compassion and context. I’m excited to partner with Sundance to bring nuance to these stories.”

Knox was profiled in her own true-crime documentary for Netflix in 2016, which looked at her conviction — and acquittal — by Italian courts of the brutal killing of her British roommate Meredith Kercher.

Knox became the subject of global speculation as around-the-clock media attention fed the public’s fascination through every twist and turn of the near-decade-long case.

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Netflix to Reboot ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ With Original Creators on Board

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Netflix is bringing back the true crime/paranormal series “Unsolved Mysteries.”

The revival is being led by the show’s original creators, alongside “Stranger Things” executive producer Shawn Levy. Terry Dunn Meurer is showrunning this new version that she co-created with John Cosgrove, who will executive produce. Levy and Josh Barry are executive producing for 21 Laps. Robert Wise will also serve as co-executive producer and showrunner.

Per Netflix, this modern take on the classic series will maintain the chilling feeling viewers loved about the original, while also telling the stories through the lens of a premium Netflix documentary series. Each episode will focus on one mystery and once again will look to viewers to help aid investigators in closing the book on long outstanding cases. It will run for 12 episodes.

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Originally hosted by Robert Stack, the series documented cold cases and other paranormal phenomena. Beginning in 1987 with a series of seven specials with Stack, Raymond Burr and Karl Malden all hosting, NBC picked it up as a full series in 1988, where it ran until 1997. The show moved to CBS for its 10th season, and Virginia Madsen was brought in as Stack’s co-host during season 11, before being canceled in 1999. Lifetime then picked it up in 2000, where it ran until 2002.

It was briefly revived by Spike TV in 2008 and aired until 2010, with Dennis Farina taking over hosting duties, since Stack died in 2003. In total, the series aired more than 500 episodes.

It’s the latest true-crime series for Netflix, which already has “Making a Murderer,” “Evil Genius,” “The Staircase” and its upcoming Ted Bundy doc, “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.”

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Patricia Arquette to star in Hulu series based on murder case profiled in Mommy Dead And Dearest

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HBO joins the hunt for the Golden State Killer with an I’ll Be Gone In The Dark docuseries

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It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer, the late Michelle McNamara’s bestselling blend of true-crime investigation and poetic memoir, ends on an uncertain, deeply tragic note. Not only is the Golden State Killer, as McNamara dubbed…

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SundanceTV Teams With Blumhouse Television on New True Crime Documentary Series

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SundanceTV and its streaming service Sundance Now have greenlit Blumhouse Television’s true crime documentary series “No One Saw a Thing.”

Israeli filmmaker Avi Belkin will direct and executive produce the six-episode show. Alexandra Shiva, Jason Blum (pictured above), Jeremy Gold, and Marci Wiseman are also set executive produce; Mary Lisio is co-executive producer.

“No One Saw a Thing” examines an unsolved and mysterious death in the American Heartland and the corrosive effects of vigilantism in small town America, per Sundance. The case garnered international attention in the early 1980s after a resident was shot dead in front of almost 60 townspeople. These witnesses deny having seen anything, to this very day.

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Production is currently underway and the show will launch on SundanceTV and Sundance Now in 2019.

“No One Saw a Thing” is the next step in SundanceTV shoring up its true crime slate. The AMC-owned cable channel recently ordered true crime docuseries “The Road to Jonestown,” which hails in part from executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Produced under the auspices of Blumhouse Television, with prestigious creative talent on board and a compelling mystery at its core, ‘No One Saw a Thing’ is the perfect project for SundanceTV’s and Sundance Now’s discerning audience,” said Jan Diedrichsen, general manager, SundanceTV and Sundance Now. “We have a robust fan base who revel in evocative storytelling, and this exploration will certainly satisfy their appetite for a thought-provoking — and unsolved — true crime story. What’s more, this project underscores SundanceTV’s commitment to working with top tier talent to explore infamous crimes and the impact of these stories on popular culture.”

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“Stranger than fiction, ‘No One Saw a Thing’ is one of those unbelievable stories that requires the passion of a storyteller like Avi Belkin who will stop at nothing to get to the truth. We brought Alexandra Shiva on board to help shepherd the project because of our successful history together,” said Jeremy Gold, co-president Blumhouse Television.

“With its avid audience of fans who enjoy creative and smart entertainment, SundanceTV is the perfect platform. Fans will also have an opportunity to share their own conspiracy theories over social media,” added Marci Wiseman, co-president Blumhouse Television.

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Patton Oswalt on Completing His Late Wife’s Unfinished True-Crime Book: ‘I Wanted to Do Right’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Michelle McNamara, the late wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, died in 2016, but her true-crime book will be released on Tuesday.

“That whole year is just this really painful blur,” Oswalt told Entertainment Weekly in a new interview, explaining that somehow, through pain and grief, he decided to finish his late wife’s book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” “I’m going to get this book done,” he said of his mindset.

The comedian said he sent emails, made calls and pressed everyone involved to “get this done.”

More than finishing, he said he wanted it done right.

“It was her book and it’s an amazing book. I wanted to do right by her,” said Oswalt.

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And he did right, according to EW’s David Canfield, who called McNamara’s final work her “greatest achievement, a fitting cap to a career of investigative writing.”

Oswalt announced in a tweet last September that his late wife’s book would indeed be released posthumously. “My late wife’s true crime book, I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK, comes out 2/27/18,” Oswalt wrote. “It’s amazing, Pre-order here:”

The book, which is being published by HarperCollins, revolves around the Golden State Killer, who according to the publisher is an “unidentified serial killer and rapist who committed 50 rapes in Northern California (1976-1979) and murdered at least ten people in Southern California (1979-1986).”

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My late wife’s true crime book, I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK, comes out 2/27/18. It’s amazing, Pre-order here:

– Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 18, 2017

“Commonly referred to by the media as the ‘East Area Rapist’ or the ‘Original Night Stalker,’ this serial killer eluded capture time after time, baffling law enforcement officials and veteran detectives up and down the West Coast,” the book description continues. “Three decades later, true crime journalist McNamara took up a virtual hunt for the unidentified killer, coming closer and closer to the identity, when her own life was tragically cut short.”

McNamara died in the Los Angeles home that she shared with Oswalt and their daughter Alice in April 2016. She was 46.

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McNamara, who founded the website True Crime Diary, died from a combination of prescription medications and a heart condition that had not been diagnosed, Oswalt said last year.

In a 2016 Facebook post, Oswalt said that he was helping to complete the unfinished book.

“Any spare energy I’ve managed to summon since April 21 I’ve put toward finishing Michelle’s book,” Oswalt said at the time. “With a lot of help from some very amazing people. It will come out. I will let you know. It’s all her. We’re just taking what’s there and letting it tell us how to shape it. It’s amazing.”

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A+E Networks Pushes Deeper Into True Crime, Teams With Dan Abrams’ LawNewz

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‘Mindhunter:’ FBI Agents Meet the ‘Coed Killer’ in New Trailer (Video)

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Have you ever been curious about what makes a serial killer tick?

In the new trailer for “Mindhunter,” the shadowy new Netfix project from David Finchr and Charlize Theron based off the book of the same name by famed FBI agent John Douglas, agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) are on the search to find out why serial killers do what they do.

Set to “Psychokiller” by the Talking Heads, in this trailer, we get to see Ford and Tench meet their first interviewee: Edmund Kemper, also known as the “Coed Killer” for picking up hitch-hiking college coeds.

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Ford and Tench go back and forth, worrying that their bosses won’t be too happy about their investigations–in Tench’s words: “If Shepard (Cotter Smith) finds out you’ve been interviewing the Coed Killer, he’ll flip his sh–.”

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission,” Ford replies.

Watch the full trailer above, and watch “Mindhunter” on Netflix October 13.

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‘Manhunt: Unabomber’ Stars, Writers Talk Portraying Ted Kaczynski Without the Sympathy

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Discovery Channel’s new scripted miniseries, “Manhunt: Unabomber,” has Paul Bettany (“Avengers”) playing Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist known for a 17-year long mail bombing campaign that killed three people and injured 23.

There’s a thin line in regards to portraying a man who killed three and injured dozens of others. At TCA, the actors and executive producers behind the series talked about how to not cross that line and how they got into Kaczynski’s head without endearing him to the audience.

Writer and executive producer Andrew Sodroski told reporters that the series used “radical empathy” and not “sympathy” to allow the audience to connect with Ted but not to take his side in regards to his crimes.

“To do that with Ted is very difficult,” he said. “At the same time he himself is a victim too. He was a little boy with a bright future and something happened, what I was hoping for was a way to plug into that and feel the tragedy of Ted Kaczynski.”

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“Manhunt: Unabomber” follows the hunt to find Kaczynski — aka the Unabomber — led in part by FBI Agent and criminal profiler Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald (played by Sam Worthington), who became known for pioneering the field of forensic linguistics during the investigation.

Bettany echoed a lot of these thoughts while talking about the research — and the reading — he had to do to get into Kaczynski’s head. The Unabomber is probably most remembered, besides his crimes, for his 35,000-word manifesto, which was published in full by The New York Times and the Washington Post. He also had an unpublished autobiography, which Bettany had access to and called “honest” and “revealing.”

“When Ted was arrested, the FBI itemized everything that was in his cabin I had access to his reading list and that was fascinating,” Bettany continued. “The novels that he had chosen to keep around his head were fascinatingly cliched… but they were all novels about the outsider, the man that feels like an alien in society and commits a crime that he can’t come back from, so that was useful for me.”

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And even if we all wouldn’t send bombs to people or take extreme measures to deal with strong emotions or mental illness, Sodroski said that there’s something to be said about fear that the audience can relate to, even if it’s through Kaczynski.

“The show tries to investigate our feelings of powerlessness,” he pondered. “I think those are feelings that are shared by us, all us on stage and all of us in this room. It’s the same feelings — a lack of freedom and lack of autonomy in the modern world that many of us are struggling with that many of us are struggling with, militiamen or screenwriters.”

Plus, the fact that it’s a show and not a two hour movie allowed the writers and the actors to explore all the emotions and small, domestic details in the lives of both Kaczynski and Fitzgerald. Bettany speculated that the story would be a thriller if it was constrained to a shorter format and could’ve been handled incorrectly.

“Having eight hours allows you to spend time with Ted and what his domesticity was like and what his childhood was like,” he said. “The show is not trying to generate sympathy for Ted but certainly having empathy for his child and what happened to that boy was very damaging and somehow it can be separated from the monstrous acts in his later life.”

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Investigation Discovery and People Magazine Team for True Crime Series (Exclusive)

Read on: Variety.

Investigation Discovery is teaming up with People magazine for a new true crime series. “People Magazine Investigates” will premiere Monday, Nov. 7 on the channel with a two-hour installment focusing on the 2010 rash of murders of Long Island escorts. The 10-part docuseries will draw on investigations and reporting from the People true crime editorial… Read more »