American Public Television, the syndication and program exchange service, is negotiating its first deals for programs about food, travel, health and lifestyle to be produced as part of a new podcast unit.
The project, which formally launches next year, is in the research and development phase. APT CEO Cynthia Fenneman, who will retire in May, said the organization has been discussing the idea since last year and is jumpstarting the project with its own funds.
“We have a lot of enthusiasm within our staff and our board for this initiative,” Fenneman said. “… We just have very high goals for it, but we’re trying to take it incrementally and laying out different phases, so that each phase we learn from it and then strengthen with the next phases.”
Many of APT’s top television programs focus on travel and food, including Rick Steves’ shows and cooking programs associated with Create TV. Fenneman said the podcasts may relate to existing APT shows but will not be limited to them.
The time is right for APT to experiment with how it co-produces and distributes content, said Mary Mazur, APT board chair and president and GM for Vegas PBS.
“In looking at a new source of revenue and new kind of entertainment, it made sense to explore podcasting,” Mazur said, adding that creating podcasts can help APT reach younger and diverse audiences. Public TV stations that want to get into podcasting could have a solid launching point in partnering with APT, she said.
APT will develop at least one original podcast within six to eight months, Fenneman said. It may also partner with existing podcasts produced by public media stations and commercial outlets “that could maybe use more help in breaking above the fray and be more successful.”
Fenneman said APT is reaching out to television and podcast hosts and social media content creators who “might not be in public media now, but they have the values, the mission, the sensibility.”
APT is working with QCatalyst to help develop the podcast initiative. The digital consulting firm’s team includes CEO Jason Seikin, former PBS chief of digital, and senior consultant Nathan Tobey, a former director of podcasts for American Public Media. Consultant John Barth, former CCO for PRX, is also working with APT.
APT plans to hire additional consultants and specialists as contractors who will focus on podcast marketing, productions and advertising sales. It may also hire full-time staff if the initiative goes well.
“A lot of people are saying that public media needs to embrace experimentation,” Fenneman said. “… It’s really important for us to keep pushing other platforms within media.”