Since 2011, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. has dreamed of a DRM-free future, presenting a number of offerings on his website that go for $5 or less and come with an actual unprotected video file instead of requiring some proprietary video player designed to combat piracy.
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While it’s been a generally accepted move in earning the trust and respect of his audience, C.K. informed Howard Stern on Monday that his latest program to adopt the business model has cost him “millions of dollars” in losses.
The Web show, Horace and Pete, stars Louis C.K. himself along with actor and director Steve Buscemi who portray co-owners of a family-owned bar. Its first season saw a stealth premiere on the comic’s website, LouisCK.net, back in January, with each of the 10 episodes selling for $2 to $5. To produce each episode, C.K. says, the expense was about $500,000.
The first four episodes of Horace and Pete saw such disappointing sales figures that Louis C.K. was forced to take out a new credit line just to complete the remaining six. What’s more, when Stern asked C.K. about securing financial support from outside sources, he responded with a simple, “Nah, I don’t do that.” As an alternative, C.K. explained that he’s using his own public image in an attempt to drive sales, citing television appearances and an Emmy campaign to draw an audience for his website.
“I believe that … by the summer, the show will have paid itself off,” he told Stern.
While the first four episodes gave C.K. “no cushion in life” by demanding a whopping $2 million from his own bank account, he expected to make enough from those to afford the next six. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite go as planned.
In turn, Louis C.K. plans to “sell [Horace and Pete] to another outlet … down the road.”
Although C.K. previously had the opportunity to air the show on FX, under his company’s first-look deal with FX Networks and FX Productions, if the network were to bid on the show now, it would be exempt from this agreement, according to Variety.
Nevertheless, C.K. is apparently convinced that the show will garner a profit later on, which may become the case after C.K. makes the entire season available as a bundle. As Variety’s sources claim, this option is in the works right now. And though the show doesn’t have much of an audience as it stands, it would likely be a welcome addition to Netflix’s growing catalog of original content.
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