Podcast networks, brands, streamers, and actors are all capitalizing on the growing rewatch-podcast genre

Podcasts like ‘Office Ladies’ are almost guaranteed hits, one exec told us.
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Photos: Getty Images, iHeart Media, Office Ladies, Dear Media

· 5 min read

Boy Meets World. Gilmore Girls. Scrubs. The Wire. The OC. The Office. The Hills. 90210. True Blood.

Name a show from the ’90s or early 2000s, and there’s a good chance there’s a rewatch podcast about it. It’s no wonder, given the appeal for all parties.

The growing genre of rewatch podcasts—in which actors from hit TV shows that are no longer on the air rewatch and reflect on episodes—offers podcast companies a guaranteed engaged audience, brands a backdoor into celebrity endorsements, and streaming services an opportunity to promote their catalogs.

The podcast networks

Office Ladies, a rewatch podcast about The Office hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, is perhaps the most well-known of the batch. The first episode was released in October 2019. About five months later, much of the US went into lockdown, filming shut down, and people turned back to their old favorite shows.

That’s when iHeartMedia decided to debut the first of its many rewatch podcasts, Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald, hosted by Scrubs costars Zach Braff and Donald Faison. The show racked up over a couple million downloads within its first month, Will Pearson, COO of the iHeart Podcast Network, told Marketing Brew.

So iHeart doubled down. It spearheaded The Office Deep Dive, a One Tree Hill rewatch called Drama Queens, 90210MG, a Gilmore Girls rewatch called I Am All In with Scott Patterson, and most recently, Pod Meets World, to name a few.

“We really haven’t launched any of these that have been duds,” Pearson said. “We’ve kept them all going because they’ve all been very successful.”

In fact, the category is iHeart’s “most dependable hitmaker,” Pearson told us, second only to true crime.

Mike Jensen, chief business officer of podcast company Kast Media, said his network first got into the rewatch genre with Welcome to the OC, Bitches! because the demographic of that show when it aired lined up well with a current key podcast listener demo: women ages 24–35.

The podcast did indeed develop a solid fanbase, Jensen said. Following its success, Kast went on to produce more rewatch pods like Second in Command: A Veep Rewatch and The Twilight Effect.

Shows in this category quickly hit Kast’s goal of 100,000 listens per episode, according to Jensen, and boast strong listen-through rates of over 80%, which is attractive to sponsors.

The brands

Engagement rates aren’t the only factor drawing advertisers to this genre; brands can also get the opportunity to work with major celebrities on endorsements. The more famous the actor, the higher the CPM, according to Pearson.

Dear Media, the podcast network behind the new Laguna Beach rewatch podcast Back to the Beach with Kristin and Stephen, presold ads prior to its debut in July and sold out the first season by the end of that month, according to VP of sales and brand partnerships Danielle Loose.

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Advertisers include podcast ad regulars like BetterHelp and presenting sponsor HelloFresh, as well as Siete Foods, which Loose said Dear Media pitched on the opportunity to “test podcast advertising” because host Kristin Cavallari is a fan of its chips.

“It allows brands to tap into a female millennial fan base with talent who have an almost cult-like following 18 years after the show originally aired,” Loose said.

Brian Baumgartner, the actor best known for playing Kevin Malone on The Office, also has a fan base that has followed him from TV to a podcast…or two…or three.

He started podcasting in 2020 with a show called An Oral History of The Office. He went a step further with The Office Deep Dive podcast the following year, which is when he started taking on sponsors. Now he hosts Off The Beat with Brian Baumgartner, in which he interviews The Office alums and other celebrities.

Some advertisers—like job-search site Indeed, for instance—have stuck with him for a long time, he told us. Generally speaking, he said he’s given talking points and a call to action, but brands let him put his own spin on ads.

“If you want to spend a million or $4 million to craft a commercial, that’s certainly one way to go,” Baumgartner told us. “But I think when you’re doing ad reads and you specifically have host-read ad reads, for me, what's most effective is for it to be more conversational.”

The streamers

The TV networks associated with these shows aren’t always involved in the making of these rewatch podcasts, although some do have skin in the game.

HBO’s podcast team is primarily focused on creating companion podcasts to promote its active shows, but it has produced a few rewatchables for shows like The Wire, True Blood, and Band of Brothers, all within the last year.

There’s a reason shows from the ’90s and early 2000s are so primed for rewatch pods, explained Michael Gluckstadt, director of podcast content for HBO Max: It’s been long enough that nostalgia makes people excited to revisit that content, but not so long that these shows’ fandoms are inactive.

For HBO, rewatchables are part of its brand-building efforts, according to Becky Rho, director of podcast production HBO Max.

“We’re creating this content that’s getting [fans] more engaged, spending more time on HBO Max, but then also feeling more connected to the programming,” Rho said, adding that rewatch pods can also elevate actors from these shows.

That makes them a win all around.

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