Never one to shy away from new and non-traditional attempts to get his creative output from his brain to fans, Louis CK has been mostly lucky to this point as far as independent sales go. Buoyed by the success of his FX show Louie and great word of mouth, as well as just being really great comedy, a recent special was more than successful when he released it through his website for $5 a pop. But not every similar effort is proving as lucrative for the comedian, as evidenced by the results of self-producing a new web-series Horace and Pete and selling it on a per-episode basis. In the down time since Louie went on hiatus, possibly permanently, CK still kept busy. Creative juices just don’t stop flowing obviously, and his most recent project took the form of dark Horace and Pete.
Instead of trying to pitch the show to a traditional network or web platform, CK went ahead and produced, made, and distributed the show himself on top of his usual writing, directing, editing, and acting. Every week or so, he posted the latest episode on his website for $5. That price has worked well for him before, so it should be good again right? Wrong. Apparently not even remotely enough people bought episodes and now Louis Ck is “millions of dollars in debt.” Yowzers.
CK spoke to Howard Stern about the cost to make the show as part of a massive publicity push to raise awareness of the series and gave details about what it took to produce episodes himself and how he hopes to recoup the money he’s lost in the endeavor. Variety reveals more:
Asked by Stern whether he had sought any outside financial backing for the show, C.K. said, “Nah, I don’t do that.” Instead, he said, he is relying on a publicity push that includes television appearances and an Emmy campaign to drive viewers to the show, and to his website. “I believe that … by the summer, the show will have paid itself off,” he told Stern.
Where most web series are made on shoestring budgets and don’t count on recouping the money put into them, this is a different situation as each episode cost nearly half a million dollars. CK also admitted that although he hasn’t reached out to a network to buy the show from him and re-air it, he almost certainly will in the future. You can listen to the full interview here and judge for yourself whether his attempt at unilateral creative control was a smart choice or a fool’s errand. There’s also something to be said about whether people are willing to pay the same amount for a full episode of television as they pay for a cup of coffee in any random city in the country. But that’s an argument for another day.