“We just have to do it better. Online is a revolution. The Internet is a revolution and we should be revolutionary when we think about the content we put on it rather than derivative and mimic the shit on TV and make it worse. Let’s say fuck it because the Internet isn’t TV. It’s different. It’s better.” – Shane Smith, founder of VICE
Today while browsing Mashable I came across an article about a new original show called Vigilante Diaries starring Jason Mewes (Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob). The show itself is an interesting concept, shot first person documentary style it is a “fast paced ride into the dark world of vigilante justice” that harkens to first person shooter video games. The show’s story sounds interesting, but what is truly most intriguing about this show is its innovative approach to funding.
Kickstarter has long been a place where people have posted projects of all kinds, including independent films and series, in hopes of receiving crowdfunding.The angle Chill has taken is reminiscent of this, but thoroughly innovative at the same time. Rather than asking viewers for a contribution to get the show made in the future, the site gives viewers a pay-to-play access ($5) to the show’s first two episodes. From there if viewers enjoy the show and wish to see more, they can choose to support the creators by making a donation. From there its all up to the rest of the crowd. Chill, depending on users funding, has planned a 10 episode run. According to the site they have set a funding goal of $50,000 in 30 days, if that goal is met the creators will make two more episodes, with the process continuing as long as fans support the show financially. As Brian Norgard, Chill’s chief executive and co-founder, wrote in his blog, “In its purest form, this a model for series that cannot be cancelled as long as viewers are willing to support them.”
Its hard not to see the potential implications of this business model. It opens the door for many series’ which may have a very passionate, albeit small, fan base. There are three major shows which immediately come to mind that could have been positively affected and saved by this business model: Firefly, Twin Peaks, and Jericho. All three of these shows were cancelled due to things like sagging ratings which were the result of their lack of ‘mass appeal,’ however each of these shows was also the target of major fan protests related to their cancellation. I find it hard to believe that the diehard fans of shows like these would not be willing to pay whatever it took (within reason) to see those shows back ‘on the air’ so to speak. A new funding system like the one Chill has rolled out for its new series would give shows such as those potential for a new, longer lasting life.
It’s not just the kind of content that this system could bring to light but the quality as well. When your show’s future hangs in the balance with each (or every other) episode, the quality of those episodes is likely to increase. People aren’t going to pay for non-quality content a-la-carte; there is plenty of that available on Youtube and Netflix. Therefore if the show creators wish to keep their show running, they will have to do so without taking an ‘off episode’. Furthermore the shows will likely be influenced by the people funding it (just as it is in Hollywood) so the fans may have more control over the actual direction of the story content. This increased degree of ‘fan service’ is a bit of a double edged sword, on one hand it gives the people more of what they want; but on the other hand, it also may tie the creators down a bit as they attempt to pander to their fan base. The Red Wedding in this season’s Game of Thrones for example may never have happened in a show like this because the death of a beloved character(s) might alienate fans. I do not mean to be a creative Cassandra, but it is within the realm of possibility.
One of the things that I believe will be a small point of contention with the new business model is the tiered pricing to allow you to share the video with friends. While a necessary evil, I find it hard to justify paying an additional $10 to share two episodes of a show with 3 of my friends. But this small concern aside, this business model is a great fit for the Internet age, as Brian Norgard said, “It’s clear audiences will support what they love on the Internet, the future of entertainment lies in bringing audiences and creators closer.”
It remains to be seen how successful the project will be, after 7 days of funding the project still has $39,343 left to reach its goal of $50,000, but the idea itself is incredibly promising. I would love to see this be the go to option for shows that simply don’t have a fan base large enough to survive in an ad-supported business model, but passionate enough to pay to keep watching. I can think of at least one show currently on TV that would really benefit from a format like this. What do you think, is this the future of content delivery and show development?
Here is a preview of the new show, if you want to see more check it out over on Chill. Snoochie Boochies.