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'Dateline NBC' Dominates Podcast Market With True Crime Stories

In 2019, veteran TV newscaster Keith Morrison, on a "Dateline NBC" podcast, told the disturbing tale of Pamela Hupp, a Midwestern insurance administrator accused of killing her best friend in 2011 and framing the innocent widower. Morrison had already showcased this saga of coldblooded betrayal at least four times on “Dateline” broadcasts. Nearly 32 years after its TV debut, the “Dateline” brand has found a massive new audience through podcasting that has helped it climb back to the top of a booming true-crime market it conquered in the O.J. era. With more than 1.3 billion downloads since 2019, “Dateline” ranks near the top of the major podcast charts, says the Washington Post. Apple ranked it as the No. 3 podcast across all genres for the second straight year. It was Podtrac’s No. 1 true-crime podcast of 2023, when the Alex Murdaugh trial in South Carolina whetted a public appetite for crime-scene reconstructions and courtroom drama.

“We’ve got the biggest name in true crime, and there are definitely a lot of pretenders to the throne,” said Josh Mankiewicz, a “Dateline” correspondent and former podcasting skeptic. The true-crime genre helped set the pace for podcasting’s growth over a decade, ever since “Serial,” a reinvestigation into the 1999 murder of a Baltimore teenager, became the first podcast to pass 5 million downloads. Hundreds of imitators followed, boasting edgy storylines, diverse young talent and sleek audio effects. Yet “Dateline” is beating them all, despite relying on narrative tropes from 1990s network television and correspondents of similar vintage. The “Dateline” podcast empire has grown to hundreds of hours of content, from narrative serials to raw audiocasts of the latest TV episodes to behind-the-scenes chatfests with its reporters and producers.

This week, NBC unveils “Dateline Originals,” a podcast hub collecting all of “Dateline’s” addictive narrative series into a single feed, so fans can stream them seamlessly.


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