When Louis C.K. announced late last year that he was going to self-distribute his latest stand-up comedy special, rather than partnering with HBO, Comedy Central, or any other traditional distributor, I wondered if this would usher in a new era of DIY comedy specials. The experiment for C.K. was a wild success (after early sales totaled $1 million, he donated $280,000 of it to charity), and other comics like Jim Gaffigan and Aziz Ansari followed with their own versions.
So I was surprised at first to see that C.K.’s current stand-up tour(*) would be turned into a special for HBO that will air sometime next year.
(*) I saw one of the first shows of the New York leg of the tour last month. It was, unsurprisingly, great, particularly a bit he trots out for the encore. (In typical Louis C.K. fashion, he didn’t even bother leaving the stage, saying that he knew we knew there would be more material.) Whether you get to see him live or in the TV version, you will find yourself saying, “But maybe…” a lot in the days after.
Since C.K. proved that he didn’t need a support system to make the last special a success, I wondered, why did he feel the need to get back into a traditional partnership?
The answer came a few minutes later via Twitter, where C.K. wrote that the special would be available through his website a few months after it airs on HBO, with the same arrangement as the last one: $5 for a download, no DRM or international restrictions. It’s essentially a best of both worlds situation: C.K. makes whatever impressive sum HBO is paying him to do the special for them, he doesn’t have to take care of all the infrastructure himself, and he still gets to sell it directly to all the fans who don’t have HBO. I asked whether HBO gets a cut of those website sales and got several no comments, but was told that the special will be available on HBO Go at the same time C.K. is selling it through his website, so this may just be a situation where everybody makes money via their own system.