Television distribution is a point of digital friction. Rights holders, networks, and streaming services are all at odds with each other, and in the end its users that are hurting because we aren’t able to access the content that we want, how we want.
One startup is seeing this pain as an opportunity. “There’s a supply and demand issue in television,” Mobcaster CEO and co-founder Aubrey Levy tells me. “We’re letting the market dictate what TV shows actually work, and then delivering.”
Mobcaster is a crowdfunding service focused on TV shows and TV shows only, and the platform recently reached its $100,000 in projects funded milestone, proving that there may just be a market and appreciative user base for indie television.
Levy started off working on the creative side of television, eventually moving to distribution (Levy was formerly with HBO Go, working in strategy and distribution).
He saw that while the distribution business was changing, the creation process wasn’t, and decided to be a part of this evolution in lieu of waiting for it.
Mobcaster’s model is very similar to Kickstarter’s. Projects submit a certain amount of information to Mobcaster (including a pitch video, script, budget, etc), and if they’re approved they create non-monetary rewards that backers will get should the show reached its funding goal. If a pitch is successful, they get the money to create a pilot, produce it, bring it back to Mobcaster, where it’s shown, and again sent before the site’s user base to determine whether it will get its second funding goal to create a full season (five episodes).
From there, it’s distributed on Mobcaster, in addition to possibly being picked up by one of its partners (which recently grew to include TiVo). There’s always the possibility one of the indie projects could make its way to a streaming provider or even cable network, it they’re popular enough — and the cred they get from user backing doesn’t go unnoticed.
“These projects are voted on twice by a funding audience,” Levy points out. “That positions them really nicely.”
Alternative avenues for creating professional content is quickly becoming big business. YouTube has made its original programming priorities clear. “I think they’re doing exactly what they should be doing, which is to take the content and massive user base they have and try and monetize it better,” says Levy. “It’s a massive undertaking, and it’s an experiment they’re feeling their way through.”
Now that Mobcaster can celebrate its $100k raised in projects, the next step is producing some of that content. The platform-funded The Weatherman is now in production and the series will launch on Mobcaster’s site in the near future. Levy says the streaming infrastructure’s functionality is all there but the team will continue to tweak and optimize up until the show’s premiere.