Scripted Podcasts

What WGAE members need to know.

On the train, in the car, on a bike – more and more people are listening to more and more podcasts. Although most podcasts are nonfiction, there has been an enormous amount of enthusiasm for scripted (a.k.a. fictional) dramas and comedies.

A number of Guild members have asked us about this growing world of scripted podcasting. Is it a lower-cost way to get a story known to the public… and to TV producers? Is it a viable, fulfilling way to create stories in its own right? What are some ways writers can protect ourselves as we explore this new form of work?

One thing we know for certain is that no one knows for certain how scripted podcasting will evolve, creatively or economically. But we’ve learned a lot from many conversations with writers and producers who have created scripted podcasts, and we aim to learn a lot more.

Learn more

As part of our efforts to explore this new world, we’ve released “The OnWriting Guide to Crafting Scripted Podcasts” – a two-part podcast project that explores the industry.

  • In Part One, we hear from LIMETOWN co-creator Zack Akers, HOMECOMING producer Alicia Van Couvering, and Writers Guild of America, East executive director Lowell Peterson about the industry’s business side: what the market looks like, how to break in, and how to protect yourself once you’re there.
    Learn more & listen to Part One.
  • In Part Two, Zack and Alicia – along with writers Danielle Trussoni (CRYPTO-Z) and River Donaghey (AMERICAN AFTERLIFE) – take a deep dive into the creative side of the industry – from recruiting talent, to necessary skillsets, to creative satisfactions, and beyond.
    Learn more & listen to Part Two.

Read about the current state of the scripted podcast industry – and the podcast industry in general:

Protect yourself

The Guild can cover your scripted podcast. In fact, that we’ve also organized the writer-producers who craft nonfiction podcasts at Gimlet, where contract negotiations are underway.

While there aren’t negotiated minimum rates or other terms for scripted podcasts, the Guild can do one-off agreements covering them. If you have a project and would like to cover it, please contact the Guild’s Signatories Manager, Rochelle Rubin (rrubin@wgaeast.org; 212-767-7837) or Director of Contract Enforcement and Credits, Geoff Betts (gbetts@wgaeast.org; 212-767-7852).

We can cover your scripted podcast project even though there are not currently minimum pay terms in the MBA.  We encourage you to use the Guild’s Sample Podcast Agreement template , which the podcast production company can sign, as well as the Guild’s Sample Writer’s Contract for Podcasts .

Please note that three items are not covered by the template:
  1. Intellectual property.  If you own the underlying IP, it will be important to protect it.  (This is not something covered by Guild agreements, which address terms paid to people employed to write.)
  2. Additional payments for popular podcasts – e.g., a bonus if the podcast is downloaded a certain number of times.  (These are rare, in practice, but it can’t hurt to try.)
  3. What happens in the event of “derivative use” (e.g., a TV/SVOD series is made).  This last piece depends a lot on whether you own the IP and on whether you have the leverage to insist on staying with the series.

Regardless of whether your project is Guild-covered, it’s important to try to get contract terms in at least three areas (and we know that budgets are low and the business models are untested and vary greatly from project to project):

  • Get reasonable initial compensation. Even if your dream is to create your show as a proof-of-concept for a more lucrative TV or SVOD deal, you should also try to get paid for the work you’re doing now.
  • Try to get additional pay if the podcast is successful (e.g., a bonus after a defined number of downloads).
  • Protect yourself if the podcast does result in a derivative work. Some writers and producers have tried to win the right of first refusal or some other way of getting hired onto the derivative project. Others have focused on getting paid if the series gets picked up for TV or SVOD – perhaps in the form of a cash payment akin to a production bonus.Of course, owning the underlying intellectual property gives you the greatest leverage, but production companies are already floating projects for which they own the IP, engaging writers and producers on a for-hire basis. And TV writers get separated rights; this might be a viable option in the scripted podcast world, as well.

Tell us more

Scripted podcasting is still a sort of Wild West. Deal terms range from reasonable to, well, pretty mediocre.

If you have a scripted podcasting deal, tell us about it.

We want to learn more about how writers are getting paid, about whether you are working as the creator or for-hire, whether there is already an arrangement for pick-up by TV or SVOD. We want to know as much as possible as this business evolves.

Let us know about what the scripted podcast industry looks like for you: contact the Guild’s Internal Organizer, Ani Quigley, at aquigley@wgaeast.org.

Listen to the OnWriting Guide to Crafting Scripted Podcasts on the OnWriting website, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Back to top